Gloria is the mayor of San Diego and lives in Mission Hills.
I believe San Diego is one of the greatest cities in the world, and with our sister city Tijuana, we are a vibrant, multicultural area like nowhere else. As a longtime San Diegan and Mayor of San Diego, I am proud that our city is one of two finalists vying for selection as World design capital in 2024. Obtaining this designation would underscore the uniqueness of our binational region and show the world that our diversity is our strength.
Every two years, the World Design Organization recognizes cities for their effective use of design to stimulate economic, social, cultural and environmental development. If successful, San Diego would be the first American city to receive the designation of World Design Capital. Tijuana would be the second city in Mexico to hold the title, after Mexico City in 2018.
As the eighth largest city in the United States and the second largest city in California, San Diego has arguably the most innovative and creative economy in the world and occupies a unique place in the design landscape. As California’s southernmost region, we are home to the world’s busiest land port of entry. San Diego and Tijuana are culturally and economically linked, and innovative design and infrastructure projects are helping to connect our two cities.
Cross-border collaboration and innovation are long-standing features of our communities. If selected as the World Design Capital in 2024, the Cali-Baja mega-region would be home to world-class designers, scientists, artists, architects, musicians, engineers, educators and leaders helping to build communities interconnected and resilient needed in the 21st century.
Thanks to the innovative world of design, we have been able to find creative solutions to long-standing problems in our region, such as long wait times at our points of entry. Due to continued investment in San Diego infrastructure, the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry is expected to open in 2024, making it easier to travel and trade along the border. Public investments are also complemented by private partnerships like the Cross Border Express, a pedestrian bridge connecting passengers from San Diego to Tijuana International Airport, providing a more efficient way to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. .
One of the hallmarks of San Diego / Tijuana’s bid for World Design designation also includes new designs for an international hangout at Friendship Park along the US-Mexico border. “Build This Park” is a campaign and competition to design a binational park at the western end of the US-Mexico border, accessible to both countries. Friendship Park is a half-acre square that overlooks the Pacific Ocean on the border of San Diego and Tijuana, just 15 miles south of downtown San Diego.
Like our binational bid for the World Design Capital, Friendship Park is a tangible example of how we are more than two border towns. Together we are a regional home of 7 million people who are coming together in many amazing and revolutionary ways.
Just as design has continued to address complex challenges at our border and between our cities, we continue to improve the quality of life in San Diego through thoughtful, human-centered design. The transformation from Plaza de Panama to Balboa Park, Waterfront Park, and Liberty Station are just a few examples of how we’ve started to think of public space differently in San Diego over the past decade.
By leveraging the creativity within our communities, as well as the lessons learned throughout the pandemic, we have the opportunity to continue to reimagine and improve our city through innovative design. I am delighted to see that the city’s Spaces as Places program continues to move forward. This program, which would formalize many successful elements of outdoor dining during the pandemic, will enable an overhaul and long-term use of public space by businesses and the public in new ways.
I firmly believe that the collaboration and creativity that have elevated the candidacy of our region to this point is not limited to only signature architectural projects. On the contrary, as our bid for the World Design Capital demonstrated, human-centered design work provides a framework to better address complex challenges such as social equity and justice, climate action, affordable housing, homelessness, mobility and more. Design is everything. Design is everywhere – and it includes us all.
Thanks to the cross-border team of volunteers, the cities of Tijuana and San Diego, and regional leaders like the Burnham Center for Community Advancement and the Avant-garde design alliance for having spearheaded this unique and unifying opportunity for our region.