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The Promise: To open a San Diego binational affairs office in Tijuana

Determination: Kept

Analysis: Mayor Bob Filner wants to step up cross-border collaboration.

Before he ever took office, Filner suggested a city of San Diego office in Tijuana would help strengthen a relationship complicated by long lines at the border. He pledged to open that office.

Last week, the Tijuana office made its debut, albeit, on a smaller scale than some envisioned. San Diego Binational Affairs Director Mario Lopez now has shiny, new office space at the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation headquarters.

The cubicle, complete with a stylish orange chair and access to three private meeting rooms, was unveiled Friday afternoon at the Via Corporativo.

Filner has said he plans to devote additional staffers to cross-border issues in coming months but has not said how many will be assigned to the task. He had hoped at least one staffer would work out of Tijuana full time.

Lopez, who is leading Filner’s border efforts, currently works out of the Tijuana office some days but also spends significant time meeting with officials elsewhere in Tijuana and San Diego.

Filner’s pledge to open the office is one of many we’ll be evaluating as part of a project to regularly assess the mayor’s performance. (You can check the full list of promises we’ll be tracking here.)

Tijuana leaders see the office space as a physical marker of Filner’s commitment to work together as a region.

“The space is not as important as the work,” said Flavio Olivieri, director of the Tijuana EDC.

Olivieri said he suspects the city may eventually expand its Tijuana footprint but said his organization is happy to provide the office space free of charge to facilitate improved communication between San Diego and Tijuana officials.

Some border advocates, researchers and business leaders envisioned a larger space, such as a standalone building, or at least a formal office space within a city or federal building in Tijuana. Filner, who has consistently referred to the new digs in Tijuana as an office (as opposed to a desk), didn’t publicly clear up those notions until he unveiled the new space at the Tijuana EDC.

Years ago, Tijuana secured an office space at SANDAG, the county’s planning agency, and Filner said Friday that the Tijuana office space opening represented a similar move that was long overdue, calling it a “matter of mutual respect.”

That space, as U-T San Diego noted, houses three computers and two city of Tijuana staffers who each have an office.

“I have to apologize for our city but we have to make up for lost time,” Filner said. “We need to study our assets, our joint assets, our joint resources, the ideas that are out there and build new ones.”

We’re giving Filner a “kept” rating because he substantially fulfilled his promise to open an office in Tijuana.

Though it’s not standalone office, the space will make it easier for San Diego officials to meet with leaders across the border and serves as an important symbol of San Diego’s relationship with Tijuana.

Photographer Sam Hodgson contributed reporting.

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa.halverstadt@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0528.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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