All about Chico

Get the facts on this fair city

BOOKED <br>The area chapter of the local lending library stays open later than the rest of the county’s branches.

The area chapter of the local lending library stays open later than the rest of the county’s branches.

Photo by Tom Angel

It doesn’t matter if you’re here for a quick visit or settling in for the rest of your natural life. You’re welcome to take in these fun (and a few not-so-fun) facts about Chico that will help you get to know where you’ve just landed. Rest assured, you’ve chosen great surroundings. Now, here are the nitty-gritty numbers that shape our town.

The population of the city of Chico, 73,558, is a little misleading. That’s because there are little pockets of unincorporated areas scattered about. Their residents use county services, can’t vote in city elections and are likely not hooked up to the city sewer system. The “real” population of what’s called the Greater Chico Urban Area is 102,120 people. That accounts for nearly half of the total Butte County population of 214,119. Chico’s current growth rate is 2.8 percent. Interestingly, while more people are moving here, enrollment in the elementary schools has gone down in recent years, leading to budget problems.

It’s well-known here that there aren’t enough houses to go around in Chico, and rents have gone up in the last five years, too. It’s all relative, though, and what’s pricey in Chico is a bargain by Bay Area or Southern California standards. Expect to pay at least $575 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment; $750-plus for a two-bedroom in reasonable shape. Houses are at least $1,000 a month. In 2005, the median price for an existing three-bedroom, two-bath home was $339,242, according to city records. And the bubble has yet to burst.

Chico, like most North Valley towns, is predominantly white—77 percent, to be exact. The 2000 census also tallied the city’s population as 12.3 percent Hispanic, 4.1 percent Asian (Chico has a significant Hmong community), 2 percent black and 1 percent Native American. The population of this college town is young: The median age is 24.6.

THAT’LL LEARN YA <br>Butte Community College offers a variety of vocational and general education classes to local residents.

Photo by Tom Angel

If you don’t like hot summers, you’re in for some sufferin’. Temperatures often rise past the 100-degree mark here, but summer has balmy day, too. The hottest month is August. Winters are fairly mild, with the most rainfall coming in January. The average annual rainfall is 26.04 inches.

Government, services and retail trade continue to be the largest employers in Butte County, but dominant behind the scenes is the $300-million-a-year agriculture industry (almonds and rice in particular). Much of the local economy is driven by the presence of Chico State University. With more than 2,000 employees and more than 15,000 students, it generates a lot of dollars that turn over in the economy and support a lot of businesses. Another large employer is Enloe Health System, with 2,200 workers. Butte County’s unemployment rate hovers around 7-8 percent and shifts seasonally. The average per-capita income in 2004 was $20,279, the mean household income was $52,035 and the median family income was $29,367. Chico wages aren’t known for being high, but then the cost of living here is lower than in the big city.

Getting around
The transit systems for Chico, Oroville and Butte County merged in July 2005, creating Butte Regional Transit, or “B-Line.” Tickets are $1 for in-town service, 75 cents for students. (Go to for more information.) The B-Line features routes running every day but Sunday, plus shuttles to Chico State. Seniors and the mobility-impaired may catch a ride from the Chico Clipper (342-8145). Greyhound and Amtrak leave from the train station at 450 Orange St. For a fee, you can take a shuttle to the Sacramento Airport, or you can just fly out of the Chico Municipal Airport, which is serviced by United’s SkyWest with about six flights a day. For added fun and safety, Pedi Cabs—with drivers paid by tips—run through downtown Chico on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Oh, when you’re in your car, watch out for one-way streets, mainly Third and Fourth and Main and Broadway downtown. If you’re lost, maybe you were looking for an avenue, farther north. Don’t worry: rookie mistake.

Being safe
Protecting and serving Chico are the 85 fine folks at the Chico Police Department, located on Humboldt Road and reachable at 895-4981. The Fire Department has both full-timers and volunteers, responding out of six stations around town. 895-4930.

Chico also has more than 60 churches, a daily newspaper, the weekly Chico News & Review (check it out each Thursday!), an entertainment tabloid, the student newspaper The Orion, about a dozen assorted AM and FM radio stations (including NPR and community radio), a community access TV station, Public Television and three network TV affiliates, although two are merged for news. For the last few years, the city has been kicking in to keep its branch of the county library open a full 60 hours per week, at 1108 Sherman Ave. (891-2761).

The Chico Newcomers club welcomes women hoping to meet people through coffees, luncheons and other social events. Call 566-1599 or 892-9650 for more information.