José María García Urbano, Mayor of Estepona

José María García Urbano: Estepona reacted from the first moment of the pandemic in several directions

José María García Urbano: Estepona reacted from the first moment of the pandemic in several directions

Interview with the Mayor of Estepona

José María García Urbano is in possession of three professional titles: State Attorney, Property Registrar and Notary. Furthermore, he has a Diploma in German. Between 1985 and 1994, he held various positions in the Ministry of Justice, the last being that of Deputy Director-General for Nationality and Civil Status.

In 1995, the Ministry of Justice recognized him with the First Class Distinguished Cross of the Order of San Raimundo de Peñafort. During that time, he participated in various international missions representing the Spanish State.

He has held the position of Associate Professor of Private Law at the UNED Distance University; of Civil Law at the University of Malaga (UMA) and of Commercial Law at the Carlos III University.

He entered local politics with his election to the mayoral seat of Estepona in 2011. He was re-elected twice, in 2015 and 2019, and on both occasions, he was the most voted mayor in municipalities with more than 50 000 inhabitants.

Mr Mayor, how would you describe Estepona in your own words?

Estepona is a magnificent city in the south of Spain, in the heart of the Costa del Sol, which in the last decade has undergone a great transformation and modernization. It is a city that has magnificent public services, countless tourist attractions and offers a great quality of life.

How has your city faced the challenges of the COVID pandemic?

Estepona reacted from the first moment of the pandemic in several directions. In the first place, activating a fund of unlimited social emergency aid for the acquisition of food and for economic aid to people who are in a vulnerable situation. Second, we were pioneers in the Province of Malaga in activating a plan to boost the economy, mobilizing the largest volume of public investment in the history of Estepona through necessary and sustainable works for the city.

Currently, we have under construction: a new town hall building that will improve service and care for citizens; a 500-space car park in the heart of the city, with the payment system of 1 euro a day, managed by a non-profit organization that employs people with disabilities, contributing to the labour integration of this group; the remodelling and beautification of eleven streets of the urban nucleus; the remodelling and modernization of the promenade and new sections of the coastal path that will link the entire waterfront through pedestrian paths, among other projects.

Likewise, the City Council is also applying the pioneering measure of prioritizing the award of these public tenders to companies that allocate 0.7% of contracts to social purposes.

Finally, specific plans have been put in place to help local companies through the direct award of minor works and support plans for shops and businesses in Estepona with campaigns that have directly injected more than 300 000 euros into these local establishments.

One of the most important projects in recent years for the municipality is ´Estepona, Garden of the Costa del Sol´. Can you tell us more about this project? Has it been completed and how is the face of your city changing as a result?

The ‘Estepona, Garden of the Costa del Sol’ project has completely transformed the image of the city and has had a valuable socio-economic impact. Few cities have had an improvement and modernization of the magnitude that Estepona has experienced in the last decade.

This initiative was launched in 2011 to recover the city, provide it with a new tourist attraction and promote the dynamization of commerce and social life in the city. It has already allowed the renovation and beautification of more than 130 streets (18 kilometres of roads and an area of ​​more than seven hectares), full of flowers, where the Andalusian character is enhanced, for the enjoyment of pedestrians and restricted to road traffic.

At the same time, the paving, sanitation and service infrastructures have been renewed. Likewise, thanks to it, we have managed to reposition the Estepona tourism brand and turn the city into a viable tourist attraction throughout the whole year. In this way, with the commitment to urban and cultural tourism, the hotel availability, as well as the sun and beach combine to allow travellers who have not yet experienced our city to compose a market that breaks with seasonality.

This pandemic has shown us the importance of the environment we inhabit, therefore, the urban centre of the city, with its wide pedestrianized space, has become open to walkers, providing them with a better quality of life.

Are there other important actions in recent years that have contributed to changing the urban landscape in Estepona?

The ‘Estepona, Garden of the Costa del Sol’ project has been completed with other cultural projects such as the creation of an open-air museum, featuring a Route of Artistic Murals that now has more than 60 works on the facades of buildings; the Route of Poetry with 40 literary works distributed in different corners of the remodelled urban center. Likewise, another tourist boost for the city has been the creation of the Botanical-Orchid Park, which houses one of the most unique and important collections of orchids in Europe, right in the heart of the city.

On the other hand, we have committed to a sustainable city, favouring the duplication of green areas and favouring sustainable growth combined with the re-equipment of the city. Estepona has undergone a great transformation in recent years with innumerable projects and infrastructure that have modernized the city and made it a benchmark for many other locations.

The construction of a hospital, the remodelling and pedestrianization of more than 130 streets, the creation of the Botanical-Orchid Park, the connection of the coastline through pedestrian paths, the creation of the Theater-Auditorium, the Athletics Stadium, the Fair and Sports Park or the creation of a parking plan at the cost of one euro a day has shaped a city that offers a better quality of life.

Let's talk about recognition. Last year, your city presented an annual international poetry award. What is the place of poetry and culture in contemporary urban development?

Culture is part of the quality of life in cities. In Estepona, we have a firm commitment to creators and to artistic expression in all its aspects. In this area, along with this International Poetry Prize, the International Novel Prize is worthy of mention, endowed with 25 000 euros for the winning work and a publication contract with the renowned Spanish publishing house Pre-Textos.

Bringing culture closer to citizens has been one of the lines of action of the government that I lead. In this sense, there are significant initiatives such as the aforementioned open-air museum, the Poetry Route and the Sculpture Route, with pieces that embellish the urban environment.

Do you have any advice that you would like to share with your peers, other European mayors?

I would tell everyone that it is time for leadership in public institutions. The challenges are to achieve economic and social recovery from the pandemic. It is necessary for the public sector to play a strategic role that allows us to emerge stronger from this crisis. With everyone's effort, I am convinced that we will succeed and achieve a better Europe.

Thank you very much!

TheMayor.EU stands against fake news and disinformation. If you encounter such texts and materials online, contact us at



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus