Two marginalized neighborhoods on both sides of the San Diego – Tijuana border: Los Laureles canyon, in Tijuana, Mexico - the ‘last slum of Latin America’ adjacent to the border wall, and San Ysidro, California, the first immigrant community after the San Ysidro checkpoint, the most trafficked border checkpoint in the world. Los Laureles is an informal settlement of 85,000 with limited municipal services, whose demographics comprise the ‘cheap labor force’ that feeds the transnational maquiladoras surrounding it. San Ysidro, pop. 30,000, is 90% Hispanic with a median household income of $27,943. Both neighborhoods flank the Tijuana River Estuary, designated by the United Nations Ramsar Convention in 2005 as a wetland of international importance. The Cross-Border Community Stations in San Ysidro and Los Laureles Canyon are committed to research and action on issues of informal urbanization, urban policy, environmental health, equitable regional economic development, and the cultivation of a bi-national citizenship culture.



1. To develop new models of collaborative experiential learning and research between border communities and UCSD to address deep social, economic and environmental health disparities across the region.

2. To ‘localize the global,’ by declaring the San Diego – Tijuana border region as a laboratory of uneven urbanization, where new forms of equitable economic growth and environmental resiliency can be developed and tested.

3. To elevate capacity for political action in border neighborhoods through the transformation of public space into spaces of education and civic engagement.

4. To erase the physical barriers to imaginative regional thinking through transgressive technology, pedagogy and cultural intervention.

We believe that the most compelling ideas about the future of our cities today will emerge from peripheral communities and geographies of conflict, such as the San Diego -Tijuana border region, where human resilience and adaptation manifest in the ingenious reinvention of everyday life. In these zones, survival strategies shape new social, cultural, economic and political configurations, that become catalysts for alternative urban policies to frame more inclusive, sustainable patterns of urban growth. The border region is thus a unique urban laboratory for researchers to engage solution-centered processes that produce inclusive forms of sustainable urbanization.

The Cross-Border Community stations promote interaction and collaboration between demographically diverse neighborhoods and the university and co-produce new knowledge and action, for the betterment of our bi-national region. Through this two-way flow of knowledge between community and university, bottom up knowledge richly informs university research and educational agendas; and UCSD research becomes a tool to support community development.



Casa Familiar

Founded in 1973, Casa Familiar is a community-based organization located in San Ysidro, in south San Diego County. Its vision is to organize and empower residents in San Ysidro and South San Diego to take an active role in their communities by involving the residents in the civic engagement, sustainability and quality of life issues affecting their region. It provides over forty programs spanning a variety of areas addressing vital economic and community development issues.


Organización de Colonos de la Divina Providencia, A.C.

Colonos de la Divina Providencia is a formally established civil association in Tijuana directed by resident Rebeca Ramírez for the last decade. The main objective of the organization is promoting community spirit and engaging in environmental and social justice work. It has been used as a site supporting government programs providing low cost meals and free medical assistance, and Its facilities also host a senior group, maintaining activity for older adults and getting them involved in recreational activities. Their primary outreach to the residents of Colonia Divina Providencia in Tijuana has been the organization of educational workshops, trash and sediment cleanups in local parks and canals, and the reforestation of key ecological zones.



The Tijuana River Estuarine Research Reserve

The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve preserves, protects, and manages the natural and cultural resources of the Tijuana River Estuary by focusing on research and education with compatible recreation and resource use. The Reserve encompasses beach, dune, mudflat, salt marsh, riparian, coastal sage scrub, and upland habitats surrounded by the growing cities of Tijuana, Imperial Beach, and San Diego. Critical issues confronted by the Reserve include habitat conservation and restoration, endangered species management, management of the wastewater from Mexico, sediment management, and the integration of recreation.




3-D model for the UCSD Cross-Border Community Station at Los Laureles canyon, an informal settlement of 85,000 people on the periphery of Tijuana. Was displayed at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, NYC, in Fall 2016 as part of its “By the People: Designing a Better America.”


Blum interns in 2015 at the Cross-Border Community Station in San Ysidro studying a model of the mixed-use public housing project + UCSD Community Station infrastructure being developed in collaboration with the non-profit Casa Familiar. Construction costs are generously funded by the PARC Foundation and ArtPlace America.


The Mecalux Retrofit Project is a social housing research collaboration with Mecalux, a Spanish maquiladora in Tijuana that produces light weight metal pallet racks for global export, to retrofit their prefab shelving systems into new structural frameworks for housing in the slums of Tijuana. We exhibited a prototype in 2015 as part of a high-profile international exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin on the global housing crisis. With the Berlin-based nonprofit Kotti & Co we installed a second prototype in a social housing plaza. This prototype is now being adapted by residents of the Laureles Canyon into new social housing and other public infrastructure (ie. a bus stop) facilitated by UCSD researchers and students. We aspire to scale up production throughout the Laureles Canyon.