The 10 ugliest spots in Chico

All the charm, beauty and nature here can get lost in bad architecture and disrepair

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Those of us who live here in Chico do so for a reason. For some it’s the beauty of Bidwell Park, others the charm of downtown. Beautiful, old homes and restored buildings line The Esplanade and cushion downtown. And the natural beauty of the park seems to spread its branches into neighborhoods and whole streets.

But just when you think everything’s roses and daisies, you come across that empty, overgrown lot on the corner or the old drive-in that’s been slowly wasting away for—you guessed it—decades. Some eyesores are so-called because they’ve fallen into disrepair; others because of their proximity to much more pleasant views. Here’s our top-10 list, in no particular order, of Chico eyesores.

Dueling lots on East Avenue
West of The Esplanade

Need to sell your used car but don’t want to bring it to a dealer? No problem: There’s an empty lot off East Avenue where everyone leaves their undesirables. Apparently old farm equipment is also welcome. We’d hate to live in the houses that overlook these lots, just west of Raley’s and Save Mart. The words “run down,” “huge,” and “junky” all come to mind. There’s an old, faded sign for The Group real estate company on one side—please, someone give them a call and make this stretch pretty.

Chico Nut Co.
2020 Esplanade

Photo By Brittni Zacher

We’ve all seen this metal monstrosity along The Esplanade. Some may see it as a piece of nostalgia, but really—a big, windowless building towering over the cute little houses and businesses nestled along Chico’s most beloved boulevard? No thanks. We’re nuts about nuts, but it’s time for Chico Nut to find a more fitting location—at the airport, perhaps?

The Performing Arts Center
Second and Normal streets, Chico State campus

Photo By Brittni Zacher

The PAC’s windowless, doorless backside butts up against Second Street, almost as if the building is snubbing the city of Chico. Of course, that sentiment isn’t true. And when the PAC was built, First Street was still open to downtown traffic. That changed, as did the community’s view of the building, which is no pretty sight. “We do have plans to improve the look of the PAC with banners, landscaping, etc. But the building will be here for a while, so we’ll try to improve things cosmetically, if not structurally,” Chico State President Paul Zingg wrote in an e-mail. We hope so.

The AT&T building
Fourth and Hazel streets

Photo By Brittni Zacher

The entire block in this beautiful neighborhood is taken up with a behemoth. And a concrete one at that. A prime example of being out of place.

Chico Scrap Metal
878 E. 20th St.

Photo By Brittni Zacher

This hunk o’ junk is almost directly across the street from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and half a block away from Chapman Elementary. Besides showing off all its old, junk cars and industrial metal (which it recycles), Chico Scrap Metal also has been the site of soil contamination, prompting county Supervisor Jane Dolan last year to call for the facility to move. The owner is a man by the name of George W. Scott, according to Assessor’s Office records. When the CN&R tried to contact him through the phone book, the man who answered denied owning the property and promptly hung up. Chico Scrap Metal provides a useful service, but it doesn’t belong on East 20th Street.

The old Ruby’s Ranchito
Second and Walnut streets

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Back in the day—the 1970s, that is—Ruby’s Ranchito, on the corner directly across Second Street from Ray’s Liquors, was a happening breakfast and lunch joint famous for its delicious huevos rancheros and its pretty hippie servers (or waitresses, as they were then called). The owner developed some personal problems, unfortunately, and they led to financial problems that in turn led to shutdown. Yet the building has remained, sinking slowly into the ground. The owners are listed as David L. and Kathleen Purvis, right here in Chico, though phone calls went unanswered. Those of us who loved Ruby’s will always miss it, but we’re tired of looking at that ugly old building.

The old Taylor’s Drive-In
Park Avenue and 11th Street

Photo By Brittni Zacher

We’re told that back in the 1950s, Taylor’s Drive-In was the southern terminus of the nightly phenomenon known as “dragging the Main” (the northern terminus being a similar drive-in at what is now Morning Thunder Café). It survived a long time, well into the 1980s, if we remember right, but it’s been dead for decades—and the building has been an eyesore just as long. Indeed, the whole complex of which it’s a part is ugly, especially for buildings that mark the entrance into downtown Chico. The property is owned by Hal LLC, out of Sacramento.

Houses above Upper Park

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Used to be that when you walked into Upper Park, you could leave the city behind—especially once you got past the power lines. No longer. Now, when you look up, there’s a bunch of houses on the south side of the canyon, looking down on the park. They’re unavoidable, and they’re a blight. Surely the people who live in those mansions on the hill are happy with their view—the rest of us just ain’t so happy with ours.

The old Chi Tau house
Fourth Avenue and Chestnut

Photo By Brittni Zacher

Chi Tau was the unofficial fraternity where, after a night of hard drinking (water that is) during a hazing ritual, pledge Matthew Carrington died of water intoxication. Nice house, not so nice history. Thing is, the old house,—owned by Delta Alpha Alumni Control Board Inc., in care of Rob Davidson, who lives in Alamo—is getting dumpier and dumpier the longer it sits in disrepair. Our advice: fix it up or get rid of it.

Bank of America
400 Broadway

Photo By Brittni Zacher

There’s City Plaza, the classic columns of the historic post office and Municipal Building, the beautifully restored Silberstein building and, right next to it, boring, boxy, brown-and-black Bank of America. In big cities, the banks fight to see who has the coolest (and often highest) digs. Not here in dinky Chico. Apparently the architect called in sick, so we’re stuck looking at the drab, squat, block-long blob that is BofA in the heart of our downtown.

Related stories this week

What to do with a big, empty lot?
Chicoans pitch in ideas for the long-vacant corner of First and Main.

Public art: eyesore or eye candy?
CN&R editors vote on the Hands, the Plow, and the Horns in City Plaza.