Selma grant program spruces up storefronts

Selma City Council approves storefront improvement grant program; Residents, council reject new city logo as city focuses on economic development

An overhead view of downtown in the city of Selma.
An overhead view of downtown in the city of Selma.
Serena Bettis
Published April 8, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SELMA – The city’s downtown businesses have the chance to spruce up their storefronts through a new grant program offered by the Selma Downtown Business Improvement District (BID). 

The Selma City Council approved the BID’s request to adopt the Storefront Improvement Grant Program through a unanimous vote at its April 1 meeting. Eligible businesses will receive a 50% reimbursement for storefront improvements, with awards ranging from $500 to $10,000. The BID allocated $28,000 to this program in its 2024 six-month budget.

“The initiative is a strategic initiative aimed at breathing new life into the downtown and the storefronts,” Economic Development Manager Alicia Aguirre said. “With a phased approach, our goal is to empower downtown businesses and enhance the downtown aesthetics.” 

Aguirre said the application opens on April 8 and has two review periods with deadlines in June and July to allow for a phased approach to the grant awards. Businesses have 45 days to begin their projects after the grant is awarded and must complete the project within six months; grants will not be disbursed until the projects are complete.

“That 50% cost share helps businesses offset the expenses as a whole, but also it ensures that they have some skin in the game,” Aguirre said. 

Grants will be awarded based on a competitive scoring rubric that focuses on business and project eligibility. Only businesses located within the BID that are up to date on all fees and city licenses will receive grants, and only specific storefront improvements will qualify for the time being. 

Eligible improvement projects include repairs and replacements of windows and doors, installation of permanent lighting on the storefront – which has been a consistent concern in the city – removal of non-compliant signage and unnecessary visual distractions and improvements to exterior entryway flooring, excluding city sidewalks. Projects that address code deficiencies such as ADA compliance are also eligible.

Funding for these grants comes from the BID, which the city established in October 2022. These grants serve the BID’s mission of creating an inviting and vibrant downtown that businesses are eager to move to. 

Certain storefront improvement projects such as exterior painting and awning replacement are not included in this phase of the grant because the city is still working on its Downtown Strategic Plan that will provide a comprehensive guide to the design and aesthetics of the downtown. 

Once the strategic plan is finalized, the BID plans to introduce another round of storefront improvement grants that include projects that align with the vision outlined in the strategic plan. 

Residents, council reject city logo

In the same vein of creating an aesthetic vision for Selma’s downtown, Aguirre said the city is working on a rebranding project to better market itself to businesses and people looking to establish themselves in Selma. Part of this rebrand would include establishing a city logo, which is different from the iconic city seal that features images of the globe, grapes and Selma’s establishment date. 

City Manager Fernando Santillan said the city doesn’t have an official logo and instead uses its city seal as its logo. The logo would be used on external communications, city vehicles and other signage to provide “versatility in how we present the city,” Santillan said. 

The proposed logo was created in collaboration with a design team from Golden Shovel Agency, a company that works with cities and organizations on economic development communications. Driving the logo design was feedback collected from a survey circulated in January that inquired after the things residents associate with Selma and what they hope for the city’s future.

The logo included a simple design that says “the city of Selma California,” with “Selma” as the forefront of the image. It also featured the tagline “where good things grow,” to represent Selma’s agricultural history and to showcase Selma’s versatility in business sector growth.

“The grape leaf emerging from the letter “e” nods to Selma’s agricultural legacy — notably its historical title as the raisin capital of the world,” Aguirre said. “The leaves curve toward the letter “s’ doesn’t just imply growth, but it also symbolizes a deliberate pivot towards the future; it suggests that Selma is proactive … and it indicates a path towards economic resilience and sustainability.” 

Despite the explanation of the thought process behind the logo, residents did not like what was presented, and many were adamant that it was not good for the city. One resident said creating the new logo was “absolutely a waste of time,” and others were adamant that the city seal served the function of the logo just fine and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

Mayor Scott Robertson said he did not like the grape leaf imagery and would prefer to see actual grapes, and that the tagline “doesn’t mean anything to me.” Council members agreed that while they understood the idea behind the logo and they could be on board with it, they wanted to see different versions that captured more of Selma’s history.

“The seal symbolizes strength,” Councilmember Sarah Guerra said. “It always has and that’s who we are. … I just don’t think that this new logo gives it that pop or even comes close to what we have, so I have to say I’m disappointed. I wouldn’t want to move to even change it if this is what it’s gonna look like.” 

The council voted to table the item and revisit it with different design options.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter