Chico is the most populous city in Butte County, California, United States. The population was 59,954 at the 2000 census but was estimated to have grown to 86,949 as of 2008. The city is a cultural, economic, and educational center of the northern Sacramento Valley and home to both Chico State University and Bidwell Park, one of the country's 25 largest municipal parks and the 13th largest municipally-owned park.
Other cities in close proximity to the Chico Metropolitan Area (population 212,000) include Paradise and Oroville, while local towns and villages (unincorporated areas) include Durham, Cohasset, Dayton, Hamilton City, Nord, and Forest Ranch.
The City of Chico was founded in 1860 by General John Bidwell, a member of one of the first wagon trains to reach California in 1843. The city became incorporated January 8, 1872.
Chico was home to a significant Chinese American community when it was first incorporated, but arsonists burned Chico's Chinatown in February 1886, driving Chinese Americans out of town.
Historian W.H. "Old Hutch" Hutchinson identified five events as the most seminal in Chico history. They included the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850, the arrival of the California and Oregon Railroad in 1870, the establishment of the Northern Branch of the State Normal School in 1887, the purchase of the Sierra Lumber Company by the Diamond Match Company in 1900, and the development of the Army Air Base which is now the Chico Municipal Airport.
Several other significant events have unfolded in Chico more recently. These include: the construction and relocation of Highway 99E through town in the early 1960s; Playboy Magazine naming Chico State the number-one party school in the nation in 1987; and the establishment of a "Green Line" on the western city limits as protection of agricultural lands.
Chico is located at the northeast edge of the Sacramento Valley, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. The Sierra Nevada mountains lie to the East, with Chico's city limits venturing several miles into the foothills. To the west, the Sacramento River lies five miles (8 km) from the city limit.
Chico sits on the Sacramento Valley floor close to the foothills of the Cascade range and the Sierra Nevada range with Little Chico Creek being the demarcation line between the Cascade range (North of Little Chico Creek) and the Sierra Nevada range (South of Little Chico Creek). The city terrain is on the whole very flat with increasingly hilly terrain beginning at the eastern city limits.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 27.8 square miles (71.9 km²), of which, 27.7 square miles (71.8 km²) of it is land and 0.04% is water.
The city is also traversed by two creeks and a flood channel, which feeds the Sacramento River. They are named Big Chico Creek, Little Chico Creek, and Lindo Channel (also known as Sandy Gulch, locally).
The downtown area of Chico is located generally between Big Chico Creek and Little Chico Creek. The downtown has a street grid offset 49.75° from the four cardinal directions. There are numbered streets and avenues, which generally run ENE-WSW. Blocks are usually addressed in hundreds corresponding to the numbered streets and avenues. While the ENE-WSW streets and avenues are numbered, Streets running NNW-SSE are generally named after trees. The part of the 'tree' streets that intersect the CSUC campus spell the word "CHICO" at Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry, and Orange Streets.
The main thoroughfare running NW-SE through the city is Business 99, known as Main Street/Broadway (these are one way, SE and NW, respectively, in downtown Chico), Park Avenue, The Esplanade and the Midway. The city streets are designated as "East" or "West" by their relation to this street.
There are numbered streets and avenues both of which flow east-west. This fact can cause some confusion. The "Streets" are situated south of the Chico State campus through downtown, while the "Avenues" are situated north of the Chico State campus through The Esplanade. There are no left turns permitted onto any odd numbered avenue from The Esplanade, in either direction, with the exception of West 11th Ave.
In the numbered streets and avenues and most other streets that intersect The Esplanade, Main, and Park, the west addresses are all numbers whose last two digits are 00 through 49 and the east addresses are all numbers whose last two digits are 50 through 99. There are very few exceptions.
On most Chico streets odd addresses are on the south side of the street.
If you stand at the bridge over the Big Chico Creek where Main Street changes to The Esplanade and face north, the odd addresses are on the left (Bidwell Mansion is 525 The Esplanade). This convention holds for all the numbered avenues. However, if you face south, the odd addresses are still on the left (i.e., the convention has switched). This convention holds throughout the numbered streets.
Downtown Chico – This is the main commercial district in Chico. It is located generally between the Big Chico Creek and Little Chico Creek between Wall Street and Salem Street. The Downtown Chico Business Association represents the interests of the downtown to the community. Main Street and Broadway are the two main thoroughfares bisecting the downtown. Ringel Park is the triangular shaped area immediately north of downtown. The Chico City Plaza is the central point of downtown, between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The area of West Ninth Street where Main Street and Oroville Avenue converge is known as The Junction, the southernmost part of the downtown. "The Junction," as the confluence of Humboldt Road and the old Shasta Stage Road (now Main Street and The Esplanade) got its name in the early 1860s when John Bidwell and partners established a company that created a stage line between Chico and Susanville, ultimately leading to Ruby City, Idaho, and the rich gold strikes there. This is the place where Humboldt Road began; it is now called Humboldt Avenue until it reaches the Highway 99 freeway, then regains the Humboldt Road name on the eastern side as it continues into the foothills. "The Junction" was for some years a business district unto itself, providing goods and services to people arriving at and departing from the stage depot.
South Campus – The South Campus neighborhood is the area bounded by West Second Street, Salem Street, West Ninth Street and the western city limits (which is called "The Green Line"). Historically, this area was the first residential area established in the city. Currently, it is the most densely populated area of the city. The South Campus Neighborhood Association represents the interests of the neighborhood to the community. South Campus is a dynamic residential neighborhood consisting overwhelmingly of young renters under thirty-five, and specifically Chico State students. The intersection of Fifth and Ivy streets is a neighborhood commercial core sometimes referred to locally as "Five and I." There are many fraternity and sorority houses in the area, and the city has designated a "Fraternity/Sorority Overlay Zone" which is largely contiguous with the neighborhood. South Campus is home of Craig Hall, and Depot Park.
Barber – The Barber neighborhood is a working class residential neighborhood generally south of Little Chico Creek and west of Park avenue. The Barber Neighborhood Association represents the interests of the neighborhood to the community. This neighborhood was originally built to house the employees of the adjacent Diamond Match Factory. The neighborhood was named after Ohio Columbus Barber, president of the Diamond Match Company. Today, the Diamond Match property is designated for a future development called Barber Yard.
Chapmantown – This is a working class residential neighborhood entirely surrounded by area inside the city of Chico, but which itself is not a part of the city. Rather, it is under the jurisdiction of the County of Butte. Chapmantown is currently known as the area bounded by Little Chico Creek, Boucher Street, Guill Street and East Sixteenth Street. The neighborhood south of East Twentieth Street to the east of Fair street is also referred to as Chapmantown. Historically, Chapmantown referred to everything east of Mulberry street, but that is no longer the case. Due to not being within city limits, there are no sidewalks, sewers, or any other city services. However, there are also none of the regulations associated with the municipality either (prohibition on chicken coops, burn permits, etc.) The neighborhood is home to The Dorothy F. Johnson Neighborhood Center, a facility of the Chico Area Recreation District. The neighborhood is named after Augustus Chapman.
The Avenues – A relatively new name that refers to the area north of Big Chico Creek historically known as Chico Vecino. This area includes the numbered avenues that intersect The Esplanade. This residential neighborhood is adjacent to the northern boundary of Chico State campus and is south of Lindo Channel. The neighborhood also is home to Enloe Medical Center.
Mansion Park is the high end residential neighborhood adjacent to the Bidwell Mansion, and immediately between the northeast corner of the Chico State campus and Chico High School. This neighborhood is notable for its being a preferred parking zone for residents with permits only, located in an area of the city with very impacted parking. This neighborhood is home to the Albert E. Warrens Reception Center (formerly the Julia Morgan House), and the Bidwell Amphitheatre. Originally, home to mostly university professors and staff, other professionals and upper middle class families now also call it home.
Doe Mill is the developing urban residential neighborhood generally north of East Twentieth Street and East of Bruce Road.
Nob Hill is the developing residential neighborhood west of Bruce Road and north of Highway 32.
California Park is the developing residential neighborhood east of Bruce Road and north of Highway 32. This area contains a smaller area known as Canyon Oaks.
Aspen Glen is the residential neighborhood east of the Esplanade and north of East Shasta avenue. Many streets here are named after things associated with Colorado.
Cussick Area Neighborhood is an assortment of different housing types on the northwest end of town. It is flanked by orchards, the Esplanade, and West East Avenue. The deeper you go into the neighborhood, the larger and more beautiful the houses get in this peaceful backside of town.
Big Chico Creek Estates is a middle class development in the southwest area of town. Backed by the beautiful Big Chico Creek, and very close to Chico's newest elementary school.
Little Chico Creek Estates a small, middle-class development built in southeast Chico on what was at one time an olive orchard. Placed between Little Chico Creek and a small flood-control channel, the development extends from Bruce Road at the western end to the mouth of Stilson Canyon at the eastern end, where it is separated from the homes in the canyon by the fork in the two waterways at the diversion dam. Little Chico Creek Estates is located very close to Hank Marsh Junior High School as well as Little Chico Creek Elementary School and various shopping centers including the Chico Mall.
Connors Neighborhood is a very small neighborhood squeezed between East East Ave and Rio Lindo and between the Esplanade and Highway 99. Connors Neighborhood is made up of Connors Ave and White Ave, along with a couple of courts and circles. This neighborhood was incorporated into Chico in 2003, the city plans to add sewers in Q1 of 2010.
Other neighborhoods: South Park, North Park, Vallombrosa, Baroni Park, and Hancock Park.
Chico also is home to several large new urbanist neighborhoods, either planned or under construction, including Doe Mill, Barber Yard, Meriam Park, and Westside Place.
The above mentioned "neighborhoods" do not include large sections of Chico. There are numerous other areas that each have unique characteristics and attractions. While some of these areas were not so long ago outside of city limits, they have always been a part of the Chico community. Most of these areas are well established with a high per centage of residents who have lived there for more than twenty years. In the older areas of the outlying neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to find households that have been there for fifty or even more years.