Coronado bridge with sign
Proclaiming San Diego and Tijuana as “cities of life” on the Coronado Bridge. Courtesy George Mullen

The San Diego-Tijuana region was recently awarded the World Design Capital 2024 designation. This is great news and a timely opportunity to launch ourselves as the Cities of Life-Ciudades de Vida. Doing so will propel our region forward with a branding message that is wildly positive, uplifting, and inclusive of everyone and everything in our region.

At present, our region lacks any semblance of an identity. This is a real problem — but we have a solution.  And it is one that will also add a new level of “mystique” to our region.

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

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

Some come to San Diego for the life sciences research; others to Tijuana for an innovadora event; Chula Vista for business; National City for the Navy; Coronado for the beaches; La Mesa for Octoberfest; Rosarito for the lobster; Carlsbad for the flowers; Del Mar for the horse races; Tecate for the beer; El Cajon for the golfing; and so on.

Bottom line, all are unique Cities of Life within our one binational region. We intend to celebrate them all. And we can do so under this one universal umbrella of Cities of Life.  
All 21 cities and communities within are invited to participate. 

San Diego is nearly one-third Hispanic by population and hosts along with Tijuana the busiest land border in the world with over 40 million people crossing annually. Our diverse, binational and bilingual region is deeply interwoven and interconnected physically, culturally and economically. Moreover, 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 and cost-effective actions:  

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

2.  Establish an emblematic Cities of Life-Ciudades de Vida architectural icon and beacon for the San Diego-Tijuana region. This may be far easier to accomplish than it sounds. With just a few cans of white paint, we can turn one of our most visible existing structures into a breathtaking icon for our entire region. Doing this will be inexpensive, visible, and potent. 

And there is zero global competition on this front. Can you name even one messaged bridge-over-water on this wavelength? Thus, we will be the global leader with this, not a follower.  

Los Angeles’s “Hollywoodland” sign was erected in 1923 as temporary real-estate advertising, intended to be in place for only one and half years. The rest is history. Think about the endless free marketing this sign has produced for the Los Angeles region over the past century — immeasurable and extraordinary.

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

Our binational bridge messaging has the potential to go much further.

The public will be free to run with our Cities of Life-Puente Ciudades de Vida bridge — and organic branding is always the best kind. Just imagine the aerial media coverage and photos incorporating this messaged bridge into San Diego and Tijuana’s daily news shows, sporting events, tourism promotion, and civic celebrations. Think Padres games, Club Tijuana Xolos games, Holiday Bowl, Comic-Con, Tecate Beer events, Farmers Insurance Opens, America’s Cup, et al. The free national 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 is likely to become the elusive global icon our region has long sought. It is also likely to be the visual pièce de résistance of our World Design Capital 2024 celebration. After 2024, we can easily paint over the words, or keep them for as long as the region desires.  

Whereas the border wall symbolizes separation and rejection, the Cities of Life Bridge symbolizes connectivity, inclusion, and respect.

3.  Rename San Diego’s airport as San Diego-Cities of Life International Airport. Doing so will transform our airport name to be inclusive of all 21 cities in our binational region.  Furthermore, it will establish a significant point-of-entry branding beacon for our region. This will also prompt all U.S. and international airports and airlines to henceforth use “San Diego-Cities of Life” when referencing our airport as a destination. Think “Dallas-Fort Worth” and “Minneapolis-Saint Paul (Twin Cities)”.  

This free positive messaging (with our unique mystique) will be invaluable over time.

Likewise, re-naming Tijuana’s airport as Aeropuerto Internacional de Tijuana-Ciudades de Vida will be equally beneficial. It may also be worthwhile to rename the CBX in Otay Mesa as Cities of Life Cross Border Xpress.

4.  Name a central square in downtown San Diego as Cities of Life Plaza, and a sister one in downtown Tijuana as Ciudades de Vida Plaza. As we have seen with the BLM Plaza in Washington, painting the words in large format on the street itself can be very effective.  Again, only 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 in front of the IQHQ Life Sciences RaDD campus currently under construction. This will also help solidify the perception (and reality) of our region as a major “life sciences” mecca.  

All cities and communities within our region will be invited to establish their own unique Cities of Life Plazas in their downtowns.

The time and financial cost of implementing these four ideas is minimal, the results maximal.  

And the entire San Diego-Tijuana region will be the beneficiary.  

The mystique of our region will radiate globally.

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

George Mullen is the author of “The Coming Financial Tsunami” (2005) and “Welcome to the Bubble Economy” (2006), which predicted the 2007-08 global economic crash. He is spearheading Sunbreak Ranch in the effort to end America’s homeless crisis.  He is a principal of and a native of San Diego.