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Organizers cancel lowrider Cruise Nights in National City over proposed costs

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Mike Damron
The Mexico, United States and California flags are positioned on the front grill of a lowrider, May 27, 2022.

Organizers on Friday announced Cruise Nights in National City are coming to an end, for now, because they said they can’t afford the proposed event costs for each lowrider cruise.

“We decided to cancel all of the future cruises on Highland avenue, sadly,” United Lowrider Coalition member Jovita Arellano said.

May 6 marked the first cruise night in the city in nearly 30 years after a ban was lifted for a temporary six-month trial period.

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Mike Damron
A red Impala lowrider is parked in National City, May 27, 2022.

Now, organizers such as Arellano said that they’re being asked to pay for more than was originally planned.

“It was made clear to us during the May 23 ad hoc (committee) meeting that the city wasn't going to work with us by removing any of the fees for the police, or public works or CalTrans," she said. "These fees would cost us anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000 per cruise.”

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Jacob Aere
A man and woman stand with a bike and sign in front of lowrider cars in National City, May 27, 2022.

Nonie Samano, another United Lowrider Coalition member, said she felt like they were set up for failure.

“It's very disappointing. I mean, what we’re doing is cruising. It's not illegal or immoral,” Samano said. “We’re just out there in our cars and it's only for three hours. So it's not like it's an all-day event and then it runs into the night. It's just three hours and we just cruise and that's it.”

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Jacob Aere
The interior of an orange lowrider is shown with cruising activists gathered in the background, May 27, 2022.

The National City Police Department said in an assessment and recommendations plan that the May 6 event lasted for more than three hours and far more cars came to the cruise than expected.

In a written statement to KPBS, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis said public safety must be the priority.

“This is not a ‘City of National City versus cruising’ issue," she wrote. "This issue is about an event & temporary use permit that was re-evaluated as needing to address the safety of community, transportation impacts and congestion.”

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Jacob Aere
Jovita Arellano speaks about the cancellation of cruise nights at a press conference, May 27, 2022.

Meanwhile, National City councilmember Jose Rodriguez pushed back on the notion that cruising is still banned.

“What happened less than a month ago was a huge success. Neighbors came out and said they enjoyed it, businesses said they enjoyed it, everybody who was a part of the cruise enjoyed it,” he said. “There were no major issues in our city, only cause for celebration. And so we need to do more of that.”

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Jacob Aere
Lowriders are lined up in a parking lot in National City, May 27, 2022.

United Lowrider Coalition members said they will meet with city leaders on June 21 to discuss future plans for the cruises.

Organizers cancel lowrider Cruise Nights in National City over police costs

I report on City Heights and communities south of the Interstate 8 freeway. My beat covers housing, transportation, census and immigration policy, and a number of other issues important to these neighborhoods. No matter the topic, I seek the overlooked voices of these diverse communities to tell their stories.
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