Test drive: National City cruise event could be first step to ending 30-year ban

Friday on National City’s Highland Avenue will serve as a test drive for local lowrider groups lobbying to repeal a 1992 anti-cruise law.

Obeying traffic laws, not drinking alcohol and cleaning up after the event will be vital as the city considers the future of the law, organizers say.

National City banned cruises three decades ago to curb crime and traffic jams. But lowriders said it stigmatized their culture.

The United Lowrider Coalition, a group that formed with the intention of overturning the law, led the effort for months meeting with police and city council. They argued that the police had not enforced the law in years and that partnerships with law enforcement and the community had improved, which is essential for organizing family cruises.

Council members and the police heard their case. They finally agreed to temporarily suspend the anti-cruise order for a period of six months. Cruising will be permitted on Highland Avenue from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month through October.

Friday will be the first of six legal cruises and hundreds of lowriders are expected to show up, said Coalition member Jovita Arellano, who organized the cruises.

The group initially thought they would see around 200 attendees on Friday, “but honestly I think there will be around 1,000 because people are towing their cars from Arizona, from Texas. They come from Sacramento. They get hotels.

Police said no special traffic measures would be in place, although that could change if necessary.

“Friday is the day that we have all agreed on because we have enough police personnel to deal with it if any problems arise. We have about a third more on duty,” Police Chief Jose Tellez said.

Two to three police supervisors should monitor the area, he added, and “if we have to call in units from the ground at (Highland Avenue), we will.”

The Coalition and law enforcement said they agreed to help each other.

“We will be in direct contact with the police by mobile phone,” Arellano said. “If an officer sees a problem, he’s going to call me and tell us to fix it before he has to bring in his guys.”

Tellez said he understands cruises can draw large crowds, but finds that this time things are different. Years ago, before the ordinance, the cruise “was free for all,” but now they’re having an event between auto clubs, the city, local schools and law enforcement.

“This is a coordinated effort,” he said. “We want to be partners in this, and they want to be partners with us.”

Tellez said police would handle any complaints they receive from businesses and residents, adding that “again, this is one of six (cruises); we can adjust from there. Arellano said said she was confident companies would enjoy the event.

“We handed out flyers about the event and I would say 95% of them said, ‘That’s good.’ Some of them have even created their own flyers and have promotions,” she said.

The inaugural cruise is set to kick off with an opening event at Sweetwater High School, starting at 5 p.m. with Mariachi performances by students and where vehicles will line up before the 6 p.m. cruise.

Joseph K. Bennett