Opinion: Let’s make San Diego and Tijuana global ‘cities of life’ in 2024

Proclaim San Diego and Tijuana as “Cities of Life” on the Coronado Bridge. Courtesy of George Mullen

The San Diego-Tijuana area recently received the 2024 World Design Capital designation. This is great news and a timely opportunity to launch ourselves as Cities of Life-Ciudades de Vida. This will propel our region forward with an extremely positive, uplifting and inclusive brand message for everyone and everything in our region.

Currently, our region has no semblance of identity. It’s a real problem, but we have a solution. And it’s one that will also add a new level of “mysticism” to our region.

The Cities of Life brand was previously sought after by two of the world’s savviest and most cosmopolitan cities – Hong Kong and Dubai – confirming both its desirability and viability. But it is much better suited to our region, where it fits like a glove.

We define our binational region as including the 18 cities of San Diego County as well as the Baja California municipalities of Tijuana, Rosarito, and Tecate. Our total population is nearly six million people.

Some come to San Diego for life science research; others in Tijuana for an innovadora event; Chula Vista for business; National City of the Navy; Coronado for the beaches; The Mesa for Octoberfest; Rosarito for the lobster; Carlsbad for flowers; Del Mar for horse racing; Tecate for beer; El Cajon for golf; etc

Ultimately, all are unique cities of life within our bi-national region. We intend to celebrate them all. And we can do that under this universal umbrella of Cities of Life.
All 21 cities and communities within are invited to participate.

San Diego is nearly one-third Hispanic in terms of population and is home, along with Tijuana, to the world’s busiest land border, with more than 40 million people crossing each year. Our diverse, binational and bilingual region is deeply intertwined and interconnected physically, culturally and economically. Additionally, San Diego-Tijuana is a major innovation hub and gateway to Spanish-speaking Mexico, Latin America, and South America.

We can successfully accomplish this supercharging of the San Diego-Tijuana region with four simple, cost-effective actions:

1. The mayors of San Diego and Tijuana officially declare the San Diego-Tijuana area as Cities of Life-Ciudades de Vida.

2. Establish an iconic Cities of Life-Ciudades de Vida architectural icon and beacon for the San Diego-Tijuana region. This can be a lot easier to achieve than it looks. With just a few cans of white paint, we can transform one of our most visible existing structures into a breathtaking icon for our entire region. Doing this will be inexpensive, visible and powerful.

And there is no global competition on this front. Can you name a single bridge over water with a message on this wavelength? So we will be the world leader with this, not a follower.

Los Angeles’ “Hollywoodland” sign was erected in 1923 as a temporary real estate advertisement, intended to be in place for only a year and a half. The rest is history. Think of the endless free marketing this sign has produced for the Los Angeles area over the past century – immeasurable and extraordinary.

The English banner on the Coronado Bridge. Courtesy of George Mullen

Our bi-national bridge messaging has the potential to go much further.

Audiences will be free to run with our Cities of Life-Puente Ciudades de Vida bridge – and the organic brand is still the best. Just imagine the aerial media coverage and photos incorporating this message bridge into daily news broadcasts, sporting events, tourism promotion, and civic celebrations in San Diego and Tijuana. Think Padres games, Club Tijuana Xolos games, Holiday Bowl, Comic-Con, Tecate Beer events, Farmers Insurance Opens, America’s Cup, et al. The free domestic and international messaging this will produce for our region will be massive.

With just three simple words painted on each side, our Cities of Life Bridge has the potential to become the elusive global icon our region has long sought. It is also likely to be the visual main dish of our celebration of the World Design Capital 2024. After 2024, the words can easily be repainted, or kept for as long as the region wishes.

While the border wall symbolizes separation and rejection, the Cities of Life Bridge symbolizes connectedness, inclusion and respect.

3. Rename San Diego Airport to San Diego-Cities of Life International Airport. This will transform the name of our airport to include the 21 cities of our binational region. In addition, it will establish an important branding beacon at the entry point for our region. It will also prompt all US and international airports and airlines to now use “San Diego-Cities of Life” referring to our airport as the destination. Think “Dallas-Fort Worth” and “Minneapolis-Saint Paul (twin cities)”.

This complimentary positive message (along with our unique mystique) will be invaluable over time.

Likewise, renaming the Tijuana airport to Aeropuerto Internacional de Tijuana-Ciudades de Vida will be equally beneficial. It may also be worth renaming the CBX at Otay Mesa to Cities of Life Cross Border Xpress.

4. Name a central square in downtown San Diego Cities of Life Plaza and another in downtown Tijuana Ciudades de Vida Plaza. As we saw with the BLM Plaza in Washington, painting the words in large format on the street itself can be very effective. Again, just a few cans of paint – cheap but powerful.

In San Diego, the ideal location for such a plaza is on the Pacific Coast Highway between Broadway and Harbor Drive, directly across from the IQHQ Life Sciences RaDD campus currently under construction. It will also help solidify the perception (and reality) of our region as a great “life sciences” mecca.

All cities and communities in our region will be invited to establish their own unique Cities of Life plazas in their city centers.

The time and financial cost of implementing these four ideas are minimal, the results maximum.

And the entire San Diego-Tijuana region will benefit.

The mystique of our region will radiate globally.

Bold progress is possible when you combine creative thinking with the will to make it happen.

George Mullen is the author of “The Coming Financial Tsunami(2005) andWelcome to the economic bubble(2006), who predicted the global economic crash of 2007-08. He spearheads Sunbreak Ranch’s efforts to end America’s homelessness crisis. He is director of StudioRevolution.com and originally from San Diego.

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