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Storefront Improvement Program

The Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) revitalizes building facades visible to customers, neighboring merchants, and residents. The City of San Diego provides design assistance and financial incentives to small business owners who wish to make a creative change to their storefronts.

Eligibility Guidelines

All applications are subject to review for eligibility. The City’s Storefront Improvement Program is open to small businesses (12 or fewer employees) located in the City of San Diego with a current Business Tax Certificate.

Program Exclusions: national franchises, large office buildings in excess of 80,000-square-feet, residential rental buildings (apartments), home-based businesses, structures not facing the public right-of-way, government owned and occupied buildings, churches and other religious institutions. Also ineligible are properties that have received a SIP rebate within the last five years and projects that have already begun or completed renovations/construction.

Eligible Improvements: repair, replacement or new applications of awnings, windows, doors, lighting, paint, landscaping, tile or other decorative material, and signs. Also eligible for rebate is removal of security bars and code compliance for signage violations.

The design parameters are:

  • Respect for the original features of the building including the use of color and suitable materials
  • Limiting additional signage by incorporating it into the building's design
  • Use of suitable landscaping that will aid in the preservation of community scale and character

Program Incentives

The City of San Diego offers three different rebate options through the SIP:

  • Standard Projects: awards the applicant for one-third of the construction costs up to a maximum of $5,000.
  • Historic Projects: awards the applicant for one-half of the construction costs up to a maximum of $7,500. To qualify for the historic incentive, the subject property must be designated by the City's Historic Resources Board as a historic structure and either classified as a contributing structure to a historic district or included on a locally defined historic building inventory. Furthermore, improvements must be consistent with the historical character of the property.
  • Inclusion of Public Art: awards the applicant for one-half of the construction costs up to a maximum of $7,500. To qualify for the public art incentive, the property owner must show evidence of the engagement of an Artist as defined by San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 2, Article 6, Division 7: Commission for Arts and Culture. An Artist must be engaged to participate in designing, or specifying, or designing and fabricating elements related to the storefront improvement.
  • Multiple Tenant Building Projects: awards property owners with a commercial building that leases to multiple small business tenants up to a maximum of $10,000. Large office buildings in excess of 80,000-square-feet are excluded from the program.

Example Renderings

The following are examples of Storefront Improvement Program Renderings:

Program Procedures and Application

The guidelines and procedures of the Storefront Improvement Program are outlined in Council Policy 900-17 (PDF).

Before an application is accepted and the actual process begins, applicants will be asked for basic information about the property: size, location, and use of the building; what types of businesses currently occupy it; and who the owner is. The application asks participants to begin thinking about potential improvements they wish to make, what their goals for the improvement are, and what their budget for the project is. Applicants must include a $250 deposit and two color photos with their completed applications.