Selma overhauls zoning code for first time in decades

Selma finalizes zoning code update intended to promote transparency, consistency in development policy

Selma City Councilmember Blanca Mendoza-Navarro addresses city staff during the City Council meeting Feb. 5, 2024. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published June 12, 2024  • 
10:30 am

SELMA – A comprehensive update to the city’s zoning code is helping Selma continue its push toward increased residential and commercial development in the city by easing the development process for professionals and amateurs alike. 

Deputy City Manager Jerome Keene presented an overview of the updated zoning code — which has been in the works for nearly four years — to the Selma City Council at its June 3 meeting. Highlights of the updated zoning code include a significant consolidation of its contents, modernization of procedures and definitions and policy updates that put the city in compliance with state mandates. 

“What I can tell you is having a zoning code which is clear and concise not only helps staff implement the code consistently, but it makes it easier for development and applicants to come to your city and state, ‘I know what my zone is, I know what I want to do, and I know what the requirements are from jump,’” Keene said. 

Selma received a grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in October 2020 that allowed the city to begin the zoning code update. Keene said sections of the code have been revised periodically to meet state requirements, but the zoning ordinance has not received a comprehensive update since its original codification in the early 1960s. 

“That is a huge deal for staff to be able to communicate this in a form that is much more simplified, as council will see, but in a concise manner that alleviates maybe a lot of the ambiguities in the current ordinance,” Keene said.

Keene explained city staff consolidated the zoning code from 35 chapters to just eight by grouping similar items together and listing development standards side by side. The zoning code chapters are now grouped by general provisions, zoning districts, regulations for all zones, standards for specific land uses and activities, nonconformities, permit processing, administration and definitions. 

This is meant to make it easier for prospective developers to find out if their desired land use is allowed in a specific area and compare zoning designations. It should also make it more user-friendly for individuals who are new to the development or business world, such as a family that wants to develop open land or someone who wants to start a small business. 

The update also outlines new procedures that city staff have already started to test out, such as a preliminary development review meeting that, while currently optional, will become a mandatory part of the development application process, Keene said. This is in order to streamline the development process and make it more clear and concise on what people need to do and how they do it.

“We articulate what the process is, what permit do they need to apply for and what they can anticipate through that process,” Keene said. “It helps administer a sense of place in the city of Selma by having specific development standards that help raise what the minimum is … and then it ensures that it can be applied consistently over time.”

Keene said that by having clearer regulations, all city staff will have the same understanding of the zoning ordinance, which will ensure that projects “are constantly measured with the same measuring stick” to promote a fair enforcement of standards.

Specific updates to the zoning code include new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations, objective design standards for single and multi-family developments, major and minor home occupation requirements, introducing mixed use zoning for commercial zones, limiting the number of gas stations at a single intersection and more. 

Extensive collaboration went into the zoning code update process, which included a joint workshop between the city council and the planning commission in September 2023, review of the update by the planning commission in December 2023 and an additional workshop with the city council in March. The update received positive feedback from the city council and members of the public at the June 3 meeting as well. 

“I think that it would help the public in general to be able to bring things and have everything more easily understood,” resident Teresa Salas said. “We want development, we want people to bring their businesses and whatever else into the community.”

The Selma City Council unanimously voted to waive the first reading of the zoning ordinance update. There will be a public hearing and second reading of the ordinance at the meeting on June 17, and the ordinance will go into effect 30 days after it is approved.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter