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California ends ‘lowrider’ bans, but law enforcement group fears another bumpy ride

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Customized lowrider cars, often decked out with bright exterior designs and elaborate hydraulic systems, will be able to cruise the streets of California again after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that lifts restrictions on the vehicles. 

“On behalf of the thousands of advocates who supported this culturally significant legislation, the low rider communities, and car clubs from all over California, I would like to thank the Governor for signing AB 436 into law,” California Assembly member David Alvarez, who sponsored the legislation, told Fox News Digital this week, “The law will allow the historical legacies of cruising to continue for the current generation and many more. Governor Newsom agrees that ‘Cruising is Not a Crime’ in California!” 

Newsom signed AB 436 in October, which will prevent cities and towns from outlawing cruising or driving the cars on public streets. The law takes effect across California on Jan. 1, 2024.

Lowriders and cruising culture reaches back to 1940s California as veterans who received mechanical training during World War II returned home, Smithsonian Magazine reported. As the “hot rod” trend began heating up across the country, Mexican-American veterans in California purchased Chevy vehicles and began altering them to drive slowly and low to the ground while decorating them with bright colors, the outlet reported.

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The cars became a symbol of California Latino culture, and soon lowrider car clubs became popular by the 1970s. Cities across the state, however, began banning lowriders in the 1980s as critics argued that the cars were associated with violence, gangs and drug crimes.

In recent years, some cities such as Sacramento and San Jose lifted their own bans on lowriders and cruising while other cities, such as Los Angeles and Fresno, kept the bans in place. Some lowrider advocates and enthusiasts said the laws against cruising were an example of bias against the Latino community.

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Alvarez introduced his bill to lift bans on the vehicles in February, championing lowrider culture as one focused on family, culture and camaraderie.

“I think it’s appropriate now that we make sure that people can freely and normally go about their lives enjoying these old cars,” Alvarez said at the time, according to Fox 5 San Diego, “without any possibility of being involved in illegal activity as it currently states.”

Lowrider cars on LA street

The introduction of the bill followed a coalition of lowrider enthusiasts in National City, which borders San Diego, advocating for the city to repeal its own 1992 cruising law.

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“Our efforts were validated that at the state capitol, they understand the lowrider culture,” Jovita Arellano, president of the National City-based United Lowrider Coalition, said after Newsom’s signature in October, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

Lowriders on the street doing stunts

A handful of groups also spoke out against the bill, specifically citing that the law strips individual communities from crafting their own rules and regulations on lowriders and could lead to public safety issues.

The president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California told Fox News Digital that the group did not support the bill’s passage as they “feel strongly that policy decisions that impact individual communities are best made at the local level.”

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“We encourage local officials to work with their police departments and communities to tailor solutions to the needs and circumstances of their own neighborhoods. That will allow policies to be adjusted and amended as needed rather than being restricted by mandates passed down by the state,” Brian R. Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, told Fox News Digital.

The California Contract Cities Association, which works with more than 80 California cities that contract for municipal services, also spoke out against the bill as one that could lead to public safety issues.

“[Cruising] can create traffic control and congestion problems that then generate major logistical challenges for cities and their respective local agencies. Further, cruising can lead to street takeovers that are extremely dangerous,” the group wrote in opposition to the bill earlier this year.

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Lowriders on LA streets

Despite the law not taking effect until next month, lowrider car enthusiasts have already gathered in celebration, including in National City this month.

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“I started crying. I was so happy,” Arellano said this month during the United Lowrider Coalition’s midyear conference in National City, according to CBS 8. “I called everybody, saying, ‘He signed it. He signed it.’ Today, our coalition is so ecstatic about this celebration.”

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