You oughta know

A list of facts and figures for where you are: Chico

CATS CALL<br>—Chico’s bus system, CATS, follows eight routes around town.

—Chico’s bus system, CATS, follows eight routes around town.

Photo By Tom Angel

As those signs you see by the side of the road near a new development say, “If you lived here you’d be home by now.” Disconcerting but true, those signs. If Chico is your new home, or you’re just hanging out for a while, you’ll find these fun facts and statistics of use as you get to know your surroundings.

The population of the city of Chico, 66,767, 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 99,375. That accounts for nearly half of the total Butte County population of 207,001. Chico’s current growth rate is 2.44 percent.

The city is updating the housing element of its General Plan, and the big news is, there aren’t enough houses to go around, 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. In 2002, the median price for an existing three-bedroom, two-bath home was $181,000, according to city records, but we haven’t seen much for under $220,000 lately. Expect rents for an average, two-bedroom apartment to be at least $650.

Chico, like most North Valley towns, is predominantly white—77.2 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.

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

Government, services and the 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, that’s a lot of dollars turning over and a lot of businesses supported. 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 is $20,279, the mean household income is $52,035 and the median family income is $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 Chico Area Transit System features eight routes running every day but Sunday, plus two shuttles to Chico State. The elderly and mobility-impaired may catch a ride from the Chico Clipper (342-8145). Butte County Transit serves other parts of the region. Greyhound and Amtrak leaves 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, and 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 and four network TV affiliates, although some are merged for news. For the last couple of years, the city has been kicking in to keep the county library open longer, at 1108 Sherman Ave. (891-2761).

TV TIME <br>Chico viewers can see four local news broadcasts. Pictured is NCN anchor Rob Blair.

Photo Illustration by Tom Angel

Who ya gonna call?

Once you get to town, you’ll need to set up ye olde utilities and deal with sundry other boring matters. With the exception of garbage pickup, it’s pretty much a monopoly, so there’s one less choice new residents have to make.

SBC Pacific Bell 1-800-310-2355

Cable TV
Comcast 427 Eaton Road 1-800-824-2000

Where to even begin? Chico has dialup, DSL and wireless—check the yellow pages.

NorCal Waste Systems of Butte County 342-4444

North Valley Waste Management 893-4777

Cal Water 2222 Whitman 895-8456

Gas & electric
PG&E 350 Salem St. 1-800-743-5000

Humane Society
Butte County Humane Society 2579 Fair St. 343-7917

Animal control
Butte County Animal Control 1460 Humboldt Road 895-4926