The lists

Chico is on two new lists, including a rundown of America’s worst cities

Chico has ended up on a lot of lists over the years. The infamous one, of course, is the university’s No. 1 ranking in Playboy magazine’s top party schools rundown back in 1987. That distinction will never go away. The other one that seems to stick is the city’s inclusion about a decade ago in a book titled The 100 Best Art Towns in America. Lesser-known lists include a couple of best-biking categories (in 2012, Outside magazine rated Chico 10th for cities with great road and mountain biking, and in 2011, The Atlantic put the city in the No. 8 spot in a compilation of the nation’s top bike-commuting cities).

I’m sure Chico’s been on a bunch of other lists, too, but in the last few weeks alone, our fair city has made it onto two new ones. The first is a feel-good story on feel-good website Upworthy about “9 gorgeous, chemical-free swimming pools to dive into this summer.” Obviously, Sycamore Pool got a nod here. The iconic cement swimming hole filled with moving water from Big Chico Creek isn’t exactly ranked—rather is simply numbered six out of the nine featured spots, mostly spring-fed pools, as close as a couple of Death Valley pools to as far away as Coral Gables, Fla., where residents escape the heat in the aquifer-fed Venetian Pool.

The other list is less flattering. It comes from a source I’d never heard of—financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St.—and ranks Chico 48th among the “50 worst cities to live in.” Yikes. And, unlike the subjective lists we’re used to seeing, the website (see Sifter, page 9) actually appears to have done some decent homework. Check out its methodology at

What really hurt Chico—and landed it on the list—is that a “major component” of the ranking was based on financial status. Median household income here is $40,815 annually compared with the national median of $53,657. Meanwhile, the typical home in Chico costs $275,600. That’s less expensive than the U.S. median of $290,400. However, homes here cost 6.8 times the yearly household income (nationally, houses typically cost 3.4 times the median). In other words, Chico lacks high-paying jobs and affordable housing. That’s not exactly news around these parts. Then again, it’s interesting to see how our hometown stacks up with the likes of Boston and Palo Alto, which bookend Chico, ranking 47th and 49th, respectively.

I generally don’t put a lot of stock into lists. There isn’t enough context to give a full picture. I mean, Chico could just as easily end up on a best cities list for things like its minimal traffic, low violent-crime rate, and, as Upworthy mentioned, that chemical-free public pool at One-Mile Recreation Area.

Speaking of which, this week’s cover spread, an excellent photo essay on water hotspots, is the final CN&R project by photography intern John Domogma. The Chico State student is now preparing to apply to grad school. Domogma went above and beyond to get just the right shots to include in this week’s package. He’s a go-getter who has a great eye and an even better attitude. His standard answer when asked if he was available to go on assignment: “Of course.” We’ll miss him.