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San Jose City Hall will be lowrider central to celebrate anniversary

San Jose City Hall will be lowrider central to celebrate anniversary

The last “No Cruising” sign was removed from in front of San Jose City Hall one year ago by former Councilmember Raul Peralez, bringing a symbolic end to the decades-long ban. At the time, lowriders and other customized classic cars filled city hall’s plaza as car clubs celebrated the historic moment.

And, they are doing it again.

Look for more than 300 of those cars to be back on the plaza Friday for the first San Jose Lowrider Day, as more than 60 car clubs join Councilmembers Omar Torres and Peter Ortiz and Mayor Matt Mahan and United Lowrider Council President David Polcano to celebrate the anniversary. The festivities are set to last from 1 to 5 p.m., but you can expect cars to arrive earlier and leave later — maybe to hang for a cruise down Santa Clara Street or Story Road.

The cruising ban was enacted in 1986 by the city council, which cited traffic congestion and the impeding of emergency vehicles on Santa Clara Street, Story Road and King Road. There were also a lot of concerns about gang violence at the same time. But lowrider advocates said it turned into a discriminatory policy that criminalized a Latino cultural activity and left lowriders — including Peralez — looking over their shoulders for flashing lights.

San Jose City Councilman Raul Peralez holds up the last “No Cruising Zone” sign in front of San Jose City Hall on Aug. 31, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 31: People look at San Jose car clubs celebrating the city’s decades old ban on cruising being lifted at San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 31: People look at San Jose car clubs celebrating the city’s decades old ban on cruising being lifted at San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MAY 12: San Jose district three council member Raul Peralez speaks to Ruben Mendez, of San Jose, during a presser on Santa Clara Street and 19th Street in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MAY 12: A no cruising sign at the intersection of Santa Clara Street and 20th Street in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

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San Jose’s rich car culture, which included the founding of Lowrider magazine in 1977, was celebrated with an exhibit at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library about five years ago, which brought Peralez and Polanco together and got the ball rolling toward the lifting of the ban last summer. To the best that anyone could find, no one had actually been cited under the ordinance in years, but San Jose police maintained that the department didn’t want to lose it as an enforcement tool.

Lifting the ban has allowed lowriding back into the mainstream. It became more common to see cars driving around town, and even the prestigious Montalvo Arts Center celebrated lowriders and lowrider art at the historic Saratoga villa last weekend. Are streets downtown and in East San Jose filled with cars on Cinco de Mayo? Sure, but that was the case before the ban was lifted, too.

But a year later, the sky sure hasn’t fallen — or even bounced with the help of hydraulics.

CRUISING AROUND: San Jose Lowrider Day won’t be the only place to see some great vehicles over Labor Day weekend. The Santos Family Car show is expecting about 600 vehicles to be on display on North First Street in Alviso on Saturday. The show runs from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., with proceeds from T-shirt sales and raffle tickets supporting the Santa Visits Alviso Foundation Scholarship fund.  Founder and board member Judy Santos tells me that the all-volunteer foundation, which has been in operation for 40 years, has given out $1 million in scholarships since it started the program in 2006.

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And you can break out your best Aloha shirt to wear Sunday to TPS Motorsports in Santa Clara, which is having a Cars & Coffee event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to raise money for the Hawaii Community Foundation’s “Maui Strong” effort after the terrible wildfires there. Polynesian dancers will be providing the entertainment at 2705 Lafayette St.

OPERATION OPERA: Opera San Jose is warming up for its 40th anniversary season opener, “Romeo and Juliet,” with a special sneak peek Friday night at the California Theatre. The company will be opening the doors to the palatial performance venue from 5:30 to 9 p.m., with entertainment including dancing; arias performed by the “Romeo and Juliet” cast including mezzo-sorpano Jessica Gonzalez-Rodriguez, tenor Keanu Aiono-Netzler, bass Eric Delagrange and soprano Jasmine Habersham, who plays Juliet; and music at 8 p.m. by a string quartet made up of members of the Opera San Jose orchestra. Wedged in there at 7 p.m. will be a quick look at rehearsal, and if you want to guarantee a seat for that, you can RSVP at operasj.org/event/first-friday.

There’ll be a lot more artful activities going on around the theater, too, as it’s the monthly South First Fridays art walk and outdoor street market. You can get the full lineup of the offerings at SoFA galleries and other venues at southfirstfridays.com.