The lowriders and classic cars arrived early Sunday morning in Elysian Park to claim choice spots under the century-old palm trees that line a block of Stadium Way known as the Avenue of the Palms. By early afternoon the L.A. Cartel car club picnic was in full swing with the street jammed with chromed cruisers and the air filled with revving engines and blaring stereos. The only thing missing, nearby Echo Park residents complained, were the police and parking officers to enforce noise, traffic and drinking-in-public laws. In response, Council District 13 has promised a more organized response to shut down illegal car shows, including providing LAPD back up for out-numbered parking enforcement officers.
“There is an intimidation factor for sure,” said Mitch O’Farrell, head of constituent services for Council District 13. “That’s why we need those black and whites there when we issue the ticket.”
But it’s clear that car clubs are not going abandon the park anytime soon. Lowriders and residents have butted heads before over car shows and cruising in Elysian Park. In the mid 1980s, when police cracked down on cruising on Whittler Boulevard and other streets, the lowriders and classic cars headed to the park, forcing police to block off roads to keep the cruisers away. The park’s central location to car clubs in Los Angeles, the Valley and Orange County and relatively low permit fees have also made it a popular site for car club picnics. These are technically not shows, which apparently are not permitted. But what’s the point of a car club picnic if no one brings their Impala to show off? Even the LAPD has hosted a charity car show in the Police Academy located in the park.
Tommy Pinon, 38, president of the Strictly Family car club, said he remembers coming to Elysian Park as a kid when his dad’s car club, the Artistics, held picnics. “It’s like a little sanctuary,” he said of the events. Now, the East Los Angeles resident helps organize an annual picnic in partnership with the Millenium Car Club that last year attracted about 150 cars to Elysian Park. He’s planning this year’s event for August and said he works hard to make sure that those who attend follow the rules- which prevents public drinking and drag racing – as well clean up after the picnic is over.
As long as “we keep traffic flowing and as long as we don’t allow any alcohol in the area” there are no problems, he said. So, on Sunday August 16, you will find Pinon at his car club’s ninth annual picnic at the Avenue of the Palms accompanied by family, friends and his brown, 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.