When Joe Garcia moved to Monrovia in 1987 with his wife, he bought an 1887 Queen Anne Victorian cottage on Olive Avenue and began a journey that continues to this day – that of being a preservation force in the community.
Within a short time after his arrival, he had become a member of MOHPG (then known as the Monrovia Old House Preservation Group) which had originated only seven years before he joined. Not long after that, he was invited by then-MOHPG President Scott Thomas to get involved with the organization in a more active way.
It didn’t take long for Garcia’s leadership skills to become apparent. Within three years of joining MOHPG, he was its president and served in that position for four years. Towards the end of his tenure in that post, Joe was asked by the city of Monrovia to chair a committee to draft a preservation ordinance for the town.
Those ordinances laid the ground work for establishing a process for land marking noteworthy homes, and today it is the framework that enables the city to maintain the vintage neighborhood character for which Monrovia had become widely known.
Once the ordinances took effect in 1995, Garcia began a term on the planning commission, and by 1997 he was elected by the residents of Monrovia to serve as city councilman, a position he continues to hold to this day. But his bent towards preservation and his desire to secure the town’s heritage for the future didn’t end with his election to office.
While the city had an abundance of vintage homes, one thing it lacked was a historic district. With the support of the other members of the city council (Rob Hammond, Mary Ann Lutz, Tom Adams, and Dan Kirby), he led the way to make that dream a reality.
The provided the perfect candidate, and with the almost unanimous support of the owners of the 18 residences on this short block and with assistance from resident Tim O’Shea, the city moved forward with the proposal. Because this was the first experience that Monrovia had with this type of designation and because the city wanted to get it right, the process took over ten years from initial explorations to final result.
But on March 17, 2009, it had become a reality – Monrovia had dedicated its first historic district, officially known as the Wild Rose Tract Historic District.
Another Garcia proposal has had a direct impact on preservation on another kind. His work on the City Council made him aware of a program in existence at the time in the city of Brea, the idea of an art-in-public-places fund. Money for the fund was contributed by developers of large private projects within the city. Meeting initial resistance from developers, he soon had them on board and five years ago Monrovia had its own fund to encourage the increase of publicly displayed art.
It was from this fund that Garcia, who chairs the committee overseeing approval of expenditures on worthwhile projects, and his fellow committee members approved monies (almost $33,000) allowing for the restoration of the post office “Four Bears Mural,” which now hangs in the . It is quite likely that without this source of funding the bear mural might still be squirreled away in the basement of the post office, waiting to see the light of day. But as a direct result of Councilman Garcia’s efforts, the mural is now on display in near-original condition for the entire community to enjoy.
Today, as in the past, Mr. Garcia is the acknowledged leader on the City Council in matters pertaining to preservation. His efforts over the past twenty-five years have been instrumental in preserving a large part of our history. If there was a title of “Mr. Preservation,” he could justly lay claim to it.