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The lowrider is back: cruising the streets of LA

VAN NUYS Boulevard and the San Fernando Valley are part of a constellation of historic lowrider culture nodes in Southern California. Although Lowrider magazine wrapped up its draw last year, when the once-revered title hung up its hat, the web and social media intensified with easy networking for auto clubs to come together.

Lately, cruises or lowrider meetups take place every weekend in the region, from Oxnard to Riverside, from San Diego to Lancaster. The source of culture remains Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, a place that is almost treated as a sanctuary for SoCal lowrider clubs.

Boulevard Van Nuys draws lowriders and vintage car enthusiasts on a recent Saturday night.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“I hear people say lowriding is making a comeback. It never went away, ”says Juan Ramirez, member of the Just Memories Car Club and organizer of the Los Angeles Lowrider Community coalition.

But he recognizes that a new popularity is attracting people to cruises without any cars to show. “A lot of people are starting to adapt to this culture,” says Ramirez. “It’s crazy now.”

Auto club gatherings also attracted other types of vehicles driven by a group of younger motorists influenced more by the “Fast and the Furious” franchise than by the classic 1979 barrio “Boulevard Nights”.

Last summer, Ramirez and his coalition of veterans had to cancel the Whittier Boulevard-centric East Los Angeles overnight cruise because other motorists were crowding the parking lots and surrounding residential streets. The rally returned in late August after local leaders negotiated between auto clubs, residents and law enforcement in east Los Angeles.

Official LA has had a love-hate relationship with culture for generations. Law enforcement and city governments have long sought to crack down on the practice, with the issue frequently making headlines in The Times.

In 1985, the newspaper noted the frustrations that the cruisers, stranded off Van Nuys and Whittier boulevards by enforcement measures, gathered at Elysian Park, attracting as many as 2,000 vehicles at a time, largely young people and ” almost exclusively Latino ”.

The lowrider is back: cruising the streets of LA

The legendary Whittier Boulevard was a cruiser’s paradise in 1979.

(Larry Armstrong / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s basically a migration issue,” the newspaper quotes then Rampart Division captain Frank Patchett, who states a fact that seems as true for last week as it did four decades ago. “Cruising is a tradition, and if cruisers are torn from one area, they will just go elsewhere.”

At the end of last month, the Sheriff’s Department again had to smash east Los Angeles cruise crowds, which are believed to have reached 1,000. On social media, motorists sometimes look for unofficial “spot” ads. emergency cruise if police clear a certain area and rallies resume.

A similar scene took place in one form or another at Van Nuys, where the history of cruising is equally rich.

After heavy cruises crackdowns in the 80s and 90s, locals began to revive the cruise night around 2009. The rally fell again a few years later and then gathered strength with the help of Martin Jimenez , 35, a dedicated organizer via Facebook and the son of an old-fashioned cruiser, Martin Maciel Jimenez.

“It’s been packed for the past two years,” young Jimenez says from the sidewalk, where he watches the cruise with his father and co-organizers. “And you don’t just see Mexicans. You see Armenians, African Americans, Persians. It’s mixed and we all get along together.

Sometimes even Danny Trejo or Mister Cartoon cross paths.

Despite the winter outbreak of the pandemic in southern California, Van Nuys cruise nights appeared to intensify in December and January. At the time, the cruise was on a large stretch of the southern part of the boulevard, mostly facing car dealerships and well-lit auto shops between Oxnard Street and Burbank Boulevard.

All last year, the organizers say they implored motorists to respect the boulevard. “Do not burn these places,” urged Jimenez and several leaders of automobile clubs.

But there was not much they could do. Younger crowds, many with newer car models, gathered in supermarket parking lots and then dispersed, chased by patrol cars. Neighbors close to the rallies reported races on narrow residential streets, burnouts and even threats to locals coming out and complaining.

Tired residents got the impression from authorities that police were understaffed due to budget cuts last year.

The lowrider is back: cruising the streets of LA

Sparks fly during the night cruise on the boulevard Van Nuys.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

They turned to city council member Nithya Raman, a recently sworn-in progressive whose neighborhood sprawls madly in the middle of the city and includes Van Nuys Boulevard. District office staff met with neighbors and law enforcement met members of the automobile club and cruisers.

The parties have agreed to move the semi-official local cruise about a mile north, on a commercial stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard near Van Nuys Town Hall. There, they could loop at will between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. every third Saturday of the month.

The complaints were dropped. The night of the cruise was saved.

The police are asking to step back.

“People try to associate street racing with cruising, and it’s not quite the same crowd,” says Captain Andrew Neiman of the LAPD Valley Traffic Division. “The mentality is very different. Car club cruisers want to show off their cars, and it all depends on the work they put into the cars. And illegal street runners are all street racing and burnout. “

But, he admits, “with the downsizing within the department, we were really challenged to handle 100% of traffic collisions.”

The lowrider is back: cruising the streets of LA

Mario Garcia II, Alexis Alejandre, Mario Garcia and Karla Ramirez present their 1963 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Neiman is also from the San Fernando Valley. He says his cousins ​​went on cruises on Van Nuys Boulevard when he was growing up. “People were sailing slowly. You would park. You were spending time with your friends, ”says Neiman with a chuckle.

The same impetus is attracting cruisers young and old today, says Jimenez. He and his co-organizers often stay after the cruise ends to clean up Boulevard Van Nuys themselves.

“Most of the people who sail there already have families,” he says. “They’ve done long term time, they’re Christians. They’ve changed their lifestyle, so they’re just trying to live their life now.

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