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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to keynote conference south of border in October; sustainable new city aims to house 1 million inhabitants by 2030

By Abraham Nudelstejer

San Diego, CA (Sept. 21, 2010).- Tijuana’s most ambitious development is beginning to take shape as Mexico’s first large-scale green community. When completed, Valle de las Palmas will have housing, schools, shopping centers, medical clinics, parks, government offices and roads. The plan is for the city to be self-sufficient, with the residents able to meet all of their needs locally.


The goal is to grow the city in an orderly way, eventually becoming home to more than one million inhabitants by 2030. This is a major departure from the way Tijuana has grown over the decades, as thousands of people moved there from elsewhere in Mexico and virtually appropriated plots of land in the hills, canyons and valleys. The chaotic growth unleashed a series of problems for the city, which still is struggling to get basic services to residents.


Valle de las Palmas will be the prime example of a self-sustaining community at the upcoming conference Tijuana Innovadora, to be held Oct. 7 to 21, in that border city. Al Gore, a former U.S. vice president and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, will give a keynote address on the day the conference is focusing on green industries.


“Sustainability means not saddling our children’s future with decisions that deteriorate the environment,” said Manuel Guevara, the Tijuana administrator who conceptualized Valle de las Palmas.


The official explained that water will be treated and recycled in the community, which will use wind power, among other renewable energy sources.


He said the infrastructure also was being developed to recycle trash and to have efficient public transit.


He said the city was exploring new ways to make the project economically feasible.


One involves residents paying something similar to a homeowner’s association fee that would protect the equity in their property by maintaining common areas such as parks, streets and public lighting.


Valle de las Palmas is already taking shape. The newest campus of the state’s public university system, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, has opened its doors serving 1,250 commuter students.


The city has joined forces with two leading builders, Urbi and Geo, to bring this ambitious plan to reality in a swath of land covering 50 square miles located between the cities of Tijuana and Tecate.


These developers are tapping international experts, such as William Siembieda, the director of the department of urban planning at the School of Architecture and Environmental Design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.


Last November, Mexican President Felipe Calderón inaugurated the first phase of Valle de las Palmas. Toyota plant workers are to receive the first 200 affordable housing units this October.


The conference in Tijuana will not only showcase the green technologies being developed and applied in the city, but will focus on innovations in electronics, medical industry, culture, among other fields. Details of the conference, including a complete calendar, are found in the bilingual web site www.tijuanainnovadora.com, where tickets may also be purchased  Simultaneous translations of all keynote speeches will be provided. For a schedule of speakers, click here.


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