For many San Diegans, Tijuana represents the chaos of Avenida Revolucion with it’s painted zebras, hotdog carts and brightly colored buildings. But for those who call Tijuana home, it is a bustling metropolis growing faster than it can be mapped at a rate of 8 acres per day.
“Mixed Feelings,” a half-hour documentary airing on KPBS Television May 9 at 8:30 p.m., explores the hopes, imaginations and fears of the region’s architects, urban planners and theorists. It looks at the ways border cities grow and how the people who live there influence the architecture and urban development. Producer/director Phillip Rodriguez, senior research fellow at The Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), analyzes the attitudes of people directly affected by the shared relationship and their differing, often passionate views of San Diego and Tijuana.
“My mother was raised on the Otay Mesa,” says Rodriguez. “I remember it from my childhood, when it was still semi-rural. We’d step out of my grandmother’s house and there were open fields and horses. I go there now and I don’t recognize a thing. That is partly what this film is about, examining the very rapidly changing face of the landscape of this region, and how that feels to the human being.”
The film contrasts the two very different landscapes of each city. From the spontaneous, self-made neighborhoods of shacks on Tijuana hillsides to San Diego’s perfectly manicured master plan communities.
“San Diego has become the Truman Show,” says San Diego architect Alan Rosenblum. “It has a very particular approach to style because it’s always about image, it has nothing to do with real conditions.”
He compares this to Tijuana, where people live in homes that are expressions of their own need and desires, not those of a huge developer. “This guy has two bucks and he has to choose between a loaf of bread or a brick. And he has to build a little house on the hillside, so it ends up being pretty organic by necessity.” Teddy Cruz, a San Diego architect agrees.
“All these track communities, what they sell is surveillance, safety supposedly, hygiene,” Cruz says in the documentary. “But what they are selling ultimately is just boredom. I go to Tijuana, and I see a different attitude. Something that makes me feel more alive. I cannot help but want to escape that kind of sterility in San Diego.”
Despite differing approaches to architecture and urban development, Rodriguez’ documentary demonstrates that the future of Tijuana and San Diego are inextricably bound, held together by a shared border, and conflicted by differing definitions of chaos and order.