Yreka wants to preserve the aesthetics of a small town but develop in housing
Preserving the aesthetics and lifestyle of a small rural town is part of how residents of Yreka say they see their community developing and evolving over the next 20 years.
“There is a wonderful opportunity for Yreka to become a destination,” remarked resident Anna Vendt during a “vision workshop” Tuesday at City Hall. The community meeting was one of many as the city solicits public input into the general plan Yreka 2044.
A dozen residents participated in the recent workshop.
The 20-year plan, which provides a broad outline of how the community will evolve and grow, is a year-long process that begins with multiple opportunities for public engagement. The phase known as “visioning,” which asks residents what kind of community they want the city to become, will continue through May. A survey is available for residents, with city officials aiming for about 400 responses.
But already, some of the overarching themes emerging seem centered around preserving the scale and pace of a small town of Yreka, which today has a population of around 7,800.
Other community members implored the city to do more to make Yreka a place of middle-class jobs and families, while drawing attention to the area’s spectacular outdoor attractions. The median household income in Yreka is $41,276, according to the U.S. Census, nearly half the median household income in California, which was $78,672 in 2020.
“Mt. Shasta is one of the coolest mountains in the United States of America,” said Gary Stacher, who lives in Yreka and grew up on Etna.
The topic of housing is never far from any conversation about the future of a California community. Indeed, the city will hold another workshop on April 19 at 5:30 p.m. specifically devoted to the housing component of the plan. The state is short by about two million homes, said Juliana Lucchesi, Yreka’s planning director.
And these shortages are being felt throughout California.
“We spoke to a real estate agent today who said she had 47 families on hold, right now,” Lucchesi said, as she reflected on trends to emerge since the COVID-19 pandemic that has made smaller towns like Yreka more attractive to a wider cross-section of home buyers.
“In terms of the trends we’re seeing, people prefer smaller areas,” Lucchesi said, noting a desire for walkable communities.
Other trends, such as an increase in the commercial posture of work from anywhere, have freed up a number of residents from crowded and expensive areas like the Bay Area, Los Angeles or even Sacramento to start looking at cities like Yreka. .
“It’s not affordable to live in the suburbs anymore,” Lucchesi added, citing the rising cost of living in outer suburbs like Rancho Cordova or Folsom outside of Sacramento.
“We see pressure and people are ready to come here. It’s really a housing limiting factor issue,” Lucchesi said.
Which brings the conversation back to planning for Yreka and her future.
“From our survey responses, from our interviews with people, a lot of what people are saying is that they’re very supportive of growth,” Lucchesi said, adding that the question central will be how to balance growth, new homes and new arrivals. — and the goal of retaining a quiet, small-town sensibility.
“How can we maintain some of these values that make us rural, that make us this small town, if we invite more people to live here? Lucchesi reflected.
Skip Descant is a freelance journalist. He writes for newspapers in California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He lives in downtown Yreka.