Mount Shasta, Calif., may be a small mountain community, but its reputation as a departure from the hustle and bustle of life is by no means modest. With a population just under 3,500, the North California community faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
“I report to and take direction from council and the mayor,” he said. “We have a great relationship in that we try to be in alignment as much as we can to provide a united front.” That’s especially important when faced with criticism and pushback regarding areas like development.
Juhasz said he and the mayor take intentional growth seriously. The city isn’t expanding just for the sake of expansion.
That conservation mindset is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the Northern California region. The lush landscape and breathtaking views are impressive and captivate residents and tourists alike, Juhasz said.
“It’s wide-open spaces – not a lot of density. It’s surrounded by beautiful hiking trails and mountain bike trails, you name it. It’s pretty spectacular going up to the mountain and seeing that view every morning.”
It’s not surprising, then that tourism – especially during ski season – and events like the challenging Grinuro gravel road bike race sustain the region economically. According to Juhasz, there’s not much in the way of large employers: rather, the area relies on natural resources as a means to draw people in to spend money.
“Mount Shasta and the surrounding areas are pretty wild and pretty beautiful – lots of, you know, streams and lakes,” he said. “They’re very, very pure. In fact, our water supply isn’t chlorinated. It isn’t filtered. It’s just straight from the lava tubes. It takes a very long time – tens or twenties of years – to get through these lava tubes and into your glass.”
That’s not the only reason the city’s moniker, Mount Shasta, is revered. One striking aspect is the spiritual draw of Mount Shasta, considered by some faith traditions to be a sacred site. Per the tenants of the St. Germain Foundation, the mountain is the center of the universe – which presents an interesting dynamic.
Speaking of perspectives, Juhasz said the demographic landscape consists of a mix of generations, including former loggers and retirees from the Bay Area. The interests between these groups, coupled with a vocal minority resisting development, adds a layer of complexity to the city’s dynamics.
“What’s interesting about this place is that it’s gotten pretty expensive in comparison to other places in the county, or surrounding counties,” he said. “And, in the last census, the median age here was 57. So, it definitely skews older and fairly monied, unless you were here before and owned your home.”
Like many communities across the nation, housing is a challenge he and his team are actively working to address.
“One of the issues that we have here is trying to build housing for the next generation that wants to be up here,” he said. “Because there really is a lack of housing in the county. Our sister city to the north lost quite a few homes two years ago due to a fire. So, it’s pretty limited in terms of places to stay. Many accommodations are not affordable. I’m trying to change that.”
Current initiatives include leveraging tax increment financing and partnering with the county to accelerate infrastructure development.
At the same time, Juhasz said he’s interested in navigating the delicate balance between preservation and progress. The goal is to foster responsible growth, he said, while preserving the unique character of the community.
He offered a glimpse into the intricacies of leadership in the dynamic and ever-changing landscape.
“We have 25 units of affordable housing coming to the area,” he said. “I’ve gotten those approved and I’m waiting for the developer to start, but that’s in the pipeline. We have a number of affordable housing units that, based on a recently passed law, I can approve ministerially. In other words, that can happen without going through the planning commission.”
Juhasz added that he’s bullish on creative solutions to address the housing shortage. For instance, there’s interest from a manufacturer of materials for college dormitories. The company could build workforce housing, creating what he refers to as “blue-collar jobs,” and offer market-rate housing for the professional class.
In the meantime, Juhasz is also looking to the public sector for solutions. “We’re in the process of trying to partner with the county,” he said. “We’re using both of our general funds. Hopefully, we’ll be able to harvest our tax increment more quickly and get much-needed infrastructure in place so we can attract the kind of development we want.”