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Likely end of San Jose cruising ban gives South Bay lowriders a lift

Likely end of cruising ban would give San Jose lowriders a lift
Likely end of cruising ban would give San Jose lowriders a lift 02:44

(Archival photos provided by Jesus Flores Collection, San José Public Library - California Room)

SAN JOSE -- A push to repeal San Jose's 30-year-old ban on cruising has cleared a major legislative hurdle, passing the city's Rules Committee and advancing onto a vote before the full council in mid-June.

San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez, who authored the memo to initiate the repeal process, is the former owner of a lowrider, a 1965 Impala Supersport. He recalled getting repeatedly pulled over by San Jose police.

"This broad-stroke policy made it easier to profile and discriminate against those driving a vehicle deemed as a lowrider, particularly young brown people," said Peralez.

Peralez said lowriding and cruising was rooted in the civil rights movement, becoming a symbol of resistance, and a way to preserve Mexican American culture. But by the early 1990s, lowriding became synonymous with crime and gang activity.

In 1992, the city council made cruising illegal. Vehicles that were documented driving past police checkpoints multiple times within a designated timeframe were ticketed.

During the May 11 Rules Committee meeting, San Jose Police Lt. Stephen Donohue, pushed back on a repeal. He said the cruising ban could still prove useful during large events.

"We're asking that the council do not take away this tool. This is a tool that we use to ensure the safety of the public. And this is something that, while right now it is not a tool that's been used very often, It is something that we do not want to lose out of our toolbox," said Donohue.

Peralez argued the San Jose Police Department had not issued a single cruising citation in the past two decades.

"They really don't have the intent to criminalize or enforce cruising itself. And so my response was, let's take this off the books as an actual illegal act itself," said Peralez. 

Councilmembers Chappie Jones, Dev Davis, Sylvia Arenas, David Cohen, and Raul Peralez voted unanimously 5-0 to advance the repeal for consideration before the full council.

Gary Reed, a member of New Style Car Club San Jose, said the vote gave him a feeling of redemption.

"I'm so happy to see it coming back," said Reed.

Many of the original owners from the 80s and 90s are now fathers and grandfathers, interested in making cruising a family event.

Reed is confident the elders would be able to keep "bad apples" from disturbing the peace at future lowrider events, by distributing rules prohibiting littering, weapons, drugs and "burnouts."

"The best thing to do is go talk to them. Break it down, and tell them this is a family oriented event. What you're doing right there is not good. You're making us look bad. If you're making us look bad, it's gonna stop. The city's gonna make us stop everything," said Reed.

(Archival photos provided by Jesus Flores Collection, San José Public Library - California Room)

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