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Ban on lowrider cruising ends in California

 October 25, 2023 at 5:24 PM PDT

S1: Earlier this month , Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that lifts restrictions on lowrider cruising in California. Known as Assembly Bill 436. It also allows cars to legally drive lower to the ground. That law goes into effect on January 1st , 2024. It's a major win for thousands of low riders and car enthusiasts across the state , who consider low riding an important cultural and artistic tradition , especially in the Latino and Chicano community. Assembly member David Alvarez sponsored the bill , and he joins us now. Assembly member Alvarez , welcome to Midday Edition.

S2: It's great to be here.


S2: It's a very organic cultural expression , started primarily among young people in the 70s , primarily 80s. That's the era where the genesis is of the lowrider culture. It is very deeply rooted in a lot of Chicano Latino community , but also was very deeply rooted in the African American black community in the earlier , earlier years. So it is an expression of , of real culture of , of family , of. Our background of the music , of the colours , of the liveliness , of the culture , of the of the Latino At-Large community. And it's really special part of that was created here in California.

S1: And you grew up in Barrio Logan , where lowriders are part of the neighborhood culture.

S2: Chicano Park Day is celebrated every year towards the end of April and just celebrated. Actually believe it's 52nd year. And so going back to when I was born , I'm 43 myself. So there has been a Chicano Park Day every day I've been alive , with the exception of the years when those were put on pause , but every single year otherwise. And I remember waking up to the sound that a lot of the lowrider cars adapted the horns kind of a siren sound , literally 6:00 in the morning on the day of Chicano Park , when the cars were parading , cruising down the streets of Barrio Logan , heading towards Chicano Park where they would be staged , and then later on for everybody to enjoy. That continues to be a tradition for my family now , as have my kids when we visit Chicano Park Day particularly , that's when we see the hundreds and hundreds of cars that are on display from car clubs from throughout Southern California and the United States southwest. And also , we're lucky enough because I still live in this community , that once in a while , like this past weekend , we had lowriders. Just the car clubs just get together , come. They showed up and they had some cars on displays , and we see them all the time and we're very , very happy that they are so such a part of our community that we get to enjoy them on a regular basis.


S2: And it was a place , a way for them to gather and think. The criminal justice system believe that maybe there were some elements that were not so , so pleasant and elements of of crime in some circumstances , not at all. And so an over generalization has often happens , unfortunately , with behavior with the far reach of our criminal laws to criminalize low riding , cruising , and also just the , uh , the reallocation of cars into the classic cars that were lowered , in this case , lowriders , but all sorts of classic cars , which , when modified , were made by law in the in the 80s , were actually made illegal. And so those are the two laws that we worked on that we successfully were able to actually take off the books. So we didn't pass a law. We actually eliminated two laws that were very rooted in discriminatory practice of really targeting black and brown young people many decades ago.


S2: And then we found out this wasn't just happening in National City , it was happening in other cities throughout the state where local officials wanted to continue to ban and keep it on the books as a as a potential way to stop and to criminalize the activity was really the inspiration , but it was really from the community that was wanting to see that change. And we're working really hard to make it happen. And unfortunately , government not listening to them. And then it just kind of grew from there. We found car clubs and lowrider clubs and people throughout the entire state in the rural communities of California , in the cities of California , Republicans , Democrats. We had a bipartisan effort , which , you know , rarely happens in government these days , but it was a confluence of all those things that really. It was a movement that was really exciting to be a part of and help lead , along with so many other people throughout the state.

S1: And national city was a big part of this. They overturned their ban on cruising earlier this year , and that was thanks in part to the efforts of the United Lowrider Coalition. Here's what the organization's vice president , Marisa Rosales , told Kpbs.

S3: It started off as a repeal , but it actually all by itself has evolved into something more like preserving the culture , empowering our youth , educating our youth so that so that we can pass on this culture to them.

S1: And this is how United Lowrider Coalition President Vito Arellano reacted to the news of this bill's passage.

S4: I just started crying tears of joy. We're already preparing for events. On December 2nd. We are having the AB 436 celebration.

S1: I mean , lowrider community have really championed this legislation.

S2: Cultural piece of of art that we call art on wheels. That's been really rewarding because people recognize that this was an effort that was led by the community , that was championed by people throughout the state. Look , in Sacramento , I've only been there a little over a year , but I see how laws happen and how laws actually die. Ideas of laws die. Oftentimes there's lobbyists and , you know , high paid professionals who are trying to either pass a law or stop a law. This was genuinely just people driven. And that just gives me a lot of satisfaction as a representative of people from the community , particularly the lowrider community , who have been asking for this and who had not been heard to have seen this contrition , think it was a real important. Let's and and and also , as was mentioned , for the youth to see that when they lift their voice , things can happen. Think it was just overall real , real joy to be part of this.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Andrew Bracken. I'm speaking with Assembly Member David Alvarez about the new lowrider law and other initiatives he's working on. And you you talked about some of the local efforts , the community driven nature of this legislation change. Other cities like Sacramento , San Jose. They also lifted their bans on cruising.

S2: So that was really instrumental. And , you know , people who participate in this culture who naturally are identify with each other now through this legislative process and to testifying at committees in front of the Assembly and the Senate and sending letters and making phone calls to the legislature and to the governor , they were coming together in a joint effort. And it was really , really important to each one of them that they felt like they had someone someone had their back. I mean , we had numerous calls into the committee and testimony to the committee where they said they'd never , ever been involved in any kind of policymaking , lawmaking testimony. And so , again , that is part of what I enjoyed the most. And I'm really , really grateful , is that we were able to involve people into a political process where they saw that their voice mattered , that their voice was being heard. And ultimately , when the when the law was being signed was that they could create change.

S1: Well , and it's interesting because , you know , before your time in the Assembly , you were a member of the city council and you , you know , have a long history of being involved in San Diego city politics. And I'm curious , you know , how has that transition been to not only try to get something done at the city level , but to take that to the state level and much , you know , the state of California , which is so large and has so many different demographics involved and different districts and people and money. Yeah.

S2: That's a great , great point. I think one of the things that I , I've always prided myself in is in working with the community on the issues that matter to them. So when I was on the city council , we focused on building libraries and putting up streetlights and making sure park access and the facilities in our parks worked and always and working in conjunction with our our community stakeholders , with members of the public. And I always worried that that would not be something I could undertake at the state level , just because it's so often feel so removed from from our own communities , in our own neighborhoods. But this was a bill , again , that allowed us to to work in that way , to create coalitions with people in different communities and to allow their voice to truly be heard , to make. And they were able to make a difference in this case and think that that is the biggest takeaway I learned from this process as much as the community did that , even in Sacramento , when people raise their voices , even on an issue that might not be terribly important to many other folks , for those in the lower ed community community , this was very important. This was very important for people from throughout California , and we were all able to be a part of that. And I look forward to continuing to work in that way in conjunction with our community , and think that it is possible to take that experience from a local level to a state level.


S2: We're looking to do the first one in December. More importantly , to those who spent their evenings , their weekends , their blood , sweat and tears and their dollars investing in fixing up these amazing pieces of of of art on wheels , these cars that they really feel validated and that they can continue to express their culture through the low riding community , through cruising , and that they can share that with the rest of us who might not be as talented as they are when it comes to creating these pieces of art , but that they share with us and we all get to enjoy.

S1: And you mentioned that term art on wheels a couple of times now. Can you , you know , paint that picture for us ? What what makes , you know , this cruising community. So , you know , such an art artistic endeavor.

S2: Oh gosh. You just have to see one vehicle to to understand the , the meticulousness of the the color schemes , the work done on the interior , from the wheels to the dashboard to the steering wheel. Seats to the windows of the chrome. How it all just comes together and just expresses just livelihood and goodness and culture and and it makes everybody feel really , really good just to be around them and to see them.

S1: So these are gas powered vehicles and they're not always necessarily the most fuel efficient. And they're often driving around neighborhoods that already suffer from high levels of air pollution.


S2: I am from a community that is the most impacted by air quality and pollution in all of San Diego , by all the statistics in the measurements that exist. I am an unfortunate product of that pollution , suffering from from asthma from when I was a child till today. So anything we can do to clean up our environment and really to clean up our air is really important. So as we transition out of gas powered vehicles , I think that we need to find opportunities for some of these. What I think are historic vehicles , the lowriders and these classic cars for a way to coexist. The reality is that not everyone can afford. And that's there's another one of my battles in Sacramento. Not everybody can afford to buy a new electric vehicle. And our communities generally that I represent , that I live in , will likely keep their cars for a lot longer. Beyond when all new sales of electric vehicles in 2035 excuse me , all new sales of vehicles in 2035 will have to be electric vehicles. We will see a lot of people in this community will continue to operate and own gas powered vehicles because they can't afford to just go buy a new car. And so this part of the transition struggle that we're going to have to have as California in the reality of California , is that not every car on the road in 2035 will be an electric vehicle , but the extent that we can maximize and that we can get as many clean energy vehicles out there as possible , that's what we're where we should be headed.

S1: And I want to shift to another bill you recently championed. That's AB 1287 or the middle income homes bonus , and it seeks to expand housing in the state. Can you talk more about that and what that bill is intention is ? Yeah.

S2: This is actually another bill that was inspired from talking to people , talking to people here in San Diego who are expressing their concern for where their loved ones , their kids are going to live in the future , with the cost of living being so high and primarily the cost of housing being out of reach , even if you can afford to put your child to through college once they graduate and they have a career , those careers salaries aren't really making it possible for people to to be able to afford to live in California rent , much less buy. And it was that inspiration that led to me talking to people who know a little bit more about housing development than I do people like Colin Parent that circulates San Diego about how can we incentivize or development of middle income housing. We know there are programs , and we must continue to support programs for low income housing , because there are a lot of San Diegans and Californians who are struggling , who are more lower income. But we also have middle income families that are struggling because they don't have access to low income housing. They don't qualify for that , and they don't have the resources for market rate housing. And so we need to start looking at programs on how we capture that missing middle. There have been very few and far between initiatives and and programs. We have a first time homebuyer program that we launched. But those funds got expanded very , very quickly because of the demand is so high and so clearly there is a need to serve that population. And that's how the law was inspired and worked through the process. And again , bipartisan , almost unanimous , think there were very few votes against it. And the governor's signing the bill , which would incentivize those who build housing , which is the private sector flippers , to build low income housing and middle income housing , and in exchange , to be able to build more of their market rate housing on a site that's approved to do so. So I'm really looking forward to , in a couple of years , doing an analysis of how many people have taken advantage of this program. I think there will be quite a bit of housing produced , just like the density bonus program for low income housing produced thousands of units just in San Diego alone. I think we'll see the same for middle income housing units.

S1: And finally , I'm not sure if you saw it , but there's been a recent. US News and World Report , and it called San Diego the most expensive city to live in in the country. You know , you talked a little bit about the importance of , you know , middle income housing and lower income housing.

S2: I don't think that too many people were surprised to see the ranking. To be honest , I think we we have been feeling that in San Diego , and that's why we have to continue to do more work to try and provide more housing opportunities. The reality is people want to live in San Diego. It's an amazing place to live , and if we want to be able to keep our talent that comes to our local universities or the talent that goes through our armed services , who are , you know , our veterans who retire from the being in service , continue to serve and continue to have tremendous skill sets. Then we have to make sure that we provide housing opportunities so we can remain competitive and have the economic activity that we think all want to see happen in San Diego. So that means that the work must continue. We need to find other ways at creating housing. That's why had another bill that exempted from Sequa affordable housing developments that committed to being affordable for a 555 year period. We have to look at doing things differently than we have in the past. School reform continues to be important , making sure that every city builds housing and affordable housing in all of our cities is important. And so those are the types of laws that I think you'll see coming from Sacramento. And then again , we need to find more ways of creating housing for middle income individuals and also programs for first time home homebuyers so that we can have ownership , because that's really how you create the wealth and families that want to continue to invest and be able to thrive in San Diego.

S1: I've been speaking with Assembly Member David Alvarez. Thank you so much for joining us today.

S2: Thank you very much.

S1: We'd love to hear from you. What's your reaction to the lifting of lowrider restrictions in California ? You can give us a call at (619) 452-0228 and leave us a message or email us at midday at

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Many of the lowriders that came out to celebrate the removal of National City’s last “Cruising Prohibited” sign flew American and Mexican flags to honor the Mexican-American routs of lowrider culture, National City, May 19, 2023.
Matthew Bowler
Many of the lowriders that came out to celebrate the removal of National City’s last “Cruising Prohibited” sign flew American and Mexican flags to honor the Mexican-American roots of lowrider culture, National City, May 19, 2023.

Lowrider cruising is now legal in California. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 436 earlier this month, which lifted restrictions on lowrider cruising across the state.

State Assemblymember David Alvarez sponsored the bill and joined Midday Edition to talk about the cultural and historical significance of lowriding for the Latino community.

He also discovered some of his other legislative efforts, including housing.


David Alvarez, California State Assembly, 80th District