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Survey Says San Diegans, Tijuanans Want More Cross-Border Collaboration

A bi-national council is expected to form in the fall to increase collaboration between San Diego and Tijuana businesses, nonprofits and residents.

A recent survey found support for increased collaboration between San Diego and Tijuana on issues such as immigration, public safety and the environment.

The Bi-National Citizenship Culture Survey found that 70 percent of respondents on both sides of the border believe the two cities should increase collaboration.

“We’re ripe for a new era of collaboration between these two cities,” said Fonna Forman, co-director of the UC San Diego-Blum Cross Border Initiative that helped conduct the survey.

Forman and Teddy Cruz, the initiative’s other co-director, plan to discuss the results of the survey at a San Diego Foundation event on Friday evening that is part of its Future40 series.

Experts on both sides of the border are analyzing the results of the survey, which interviewed hundreds of Tijuana and San Diego residents, to zoom in on five issues for cross-border collaboration.

By the fall, they plan to form a bi-national council to pioneer that collaboration among nonprofits, businesses, governments and communities in Tijuana and San Diego.

“There’s a lack of coordination between these two cities whose destinies are intertwined,” Cruz said.

Respondents on both sides of the border expressed interest in collaborating on health, disaster preparedness and poverty alleviation. But they were more interested in working together on issues such as immigration, public safety and the environment.

The survey was designed to identify shared values and interests in the region. It measured levels of trust in public institutions as well as trust among citizens in both San Diego and Tijuana.

About 70 percent of San Diego respondents said Mexicans were trustworthy. Only 48 percent of Tijuana respondents felt Americans could be trusted, but the percentage was higher than the trust they placed in people in general. That number was 47 percent.

“Demographics in San Diego are shifting dramatically,” Forman said. “And the capacity and desire to collaborate with our neighbors across the border is something that’s latent but not fully understood. And the survey is a way to actually bring these tendencies out into the open.”

The UC San Diego professors worked on the survey with former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus, who re-invented that Colombian city at a time when it was plagued by violence, using tools such as the citizenship survey.

Since then, this kind of survey has been conducted in more than 50 Latin American cities. The initiative leaders said the Tijuana-San Diego survey is the first time this survey has been conducted in border cities in two separate countries.

“While we obviously have to think about these cities as separate jurisdictional entities, we’re trying to think more aspirationally as a region, so the region as a whole benefits from the kind of collaborations that emerge from this data,” Forman said.

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