Lowriders return to National City's Highland Avenue

Saying the environment has changed since the 1990s, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis on Friday welcomed back the lowrider culture to Highland Avenue.

And sitting in the back seat of a shiny black Impala with a red rose in her hair, she literally got into the movement of what was labeled a historic moment.

“We’re really celebrating the art and culture that in lowriding, but also being able to revisit a policy that was put in place over 30 years ago to really address some of the crime and violence that was happening in the late ’80s, early ’90s,” said Sotelo-Solis.

“But now 30 years later, it’s a different environment. We are looking at a car club culture,” the mayor said. “It really is intergenerational. We have grandparents that are cruising.”

Shadows of Sweetwater High School cheerleaders are seen on a lowrider. Photo by Chris Stone

Even before dozens of cars began cruising up and down Highland Avenue, there were the sights and sounds of a celebration – horns, music, food, cheerleaders from Sweetwater High School — and the roar of the engines.

On April 17, National City gave the green light to United Lowrider Coalition members to temporarily cruise Highland Avenue between Sixth and 28th streets on the first Friday each month from May to October.

Friday’s cruise was the first trial run — the first legal herding of Chevy Impalas since 1992.

There weren’t any street closings, so the dozens riding low and slow intermingled with regular cars.

After the trial period, the city will reassess the no-cruising ordinance and decide whether to allow drivers to continue beyond that month.

Spectators lined up to see the lowrider cars set off on their cruising in National City. Photo by Chris Stone

Deanna Garcia, a member of the lowrider coalition, spelled out the rules before they hit the road.

The don’ts: No running red lights, no drama, no drugs and no alcohol.

The do’s: “Keep everything on the up and up,” pick up our trash and clean up after yourself.

And then Garcia added: “No showboating and just enjoy your cruise and enjoy this magnificent day.”

Marcus Bush, vice mayor, called it a “beautiful, historic moment.”

“This is about so much more than just cars,” Bush said. “It’s about art. It’s about expression, about love, family community, supporting our small businesses, with music with food, language and, most of all, culture.

“Cruising here, this is a part of our identity in National City.”

Cruising is not a crime in itself, he said.

Two participants are riding high down Highland Ave. in National City. Photo by Chris Stone

“So we’re looking to change our approach from one of fear of each other, from one of fear of police, and one of police fear of the community to love of each other, to embracing each other,” Bush said.

Drivers were optimistic as they spoke before the cruise.

Deja Taylor, 20, of San Diego told Times of San Diego: “Honestly, it’s been a long time in the making. As lowriders, we’re trying to break the stereotype, the negative stereotypes. We’re not bad. We’re not gang members. We’re not bringing violence. We just want to enjoy our cars.”

Taylor said participants have put a lot of money, time and effort into their cars, So they don’t want to ruin the opportunity.

Scores of lowriders revved their engines for the first cruise down Highland Avenue in 30 years. Photo by Chris Stone

“We’re really happy this is going on; we made it happen,” Taylor continued. “It’s time to bring cruising back to National City…. It’s gonna feel amazing and it’s history in the making.”

Brian Bahr, 47, of Paradise Hills also was ready to get his engine started.

“I’m actually excited,” he said. Old friends were being brought together, people who haven’t seen each other in a long time.

Asked how they thought it would feel to be cruising again. “Oh, legally. This’ll be exciting. So I can’t wait. It’s past due,” Bahr said.

“Yes, back in the days, it was kind of crazy. And you had to subdue the bad guys, but at the same time, we’re not all bad.”

National City is allowing lowriders to cruise down Highland Avenue again. Photo by Chris Stone