>We are thinking of moving to Chico.
I have heard from an acquaintance who works for a major firm in Silicon
Valley that it is considered one of the hot places to retire to.
This may be the reason for the increase in housing prices,
which have peaked and started to come down.
> My husband and I have 2 small kids. What are some of the pros and cons of >living in this area? Is this a good area to raise children?
Overall (though I don't have kids) I get the impression
it's a good place.
it is a college town, though. The area near the campus
and downtown is <not> a good place for kids, or peace and quiet in general. CSU Chico had a reputation as a party school,
which the administration and city have been working
on changing. But it is still a party magnet for the north valley. Downtown might be a place to avoid nightimes Thursday thru Saturday... unless you want to party!
> Where are the good areas to live?
The north and east sides. There is more development there,
it's farther from downtown.
The south end is mostly industrial, some low income, kind of tacky.
The west side is literally "on the wrong side of the tracks";
it's partly part of the student "ghetto", and partly low income,with
signs of increased gang activity.
(gang graffiti). There is also a "green line" on the west past
which land is zoned for agriculture. This restriction, plus the airport
on the north, foothills on the east, and the south end being industrial has somewhat limited available land for building,
so real estate prices are high. So some people have started commuting
from outlying communities mostly 10 to 20 miles away.
Traffic is a problem overall because of growth. Since I first came here
in '81 the population has gone from 40,000 to over 100,000 but
the road system has kept pace since it's hard to do without without destroying historic structures or changing the town's character.
Rush hour is a pain.
Most new construction is on the east side of the freeway,
but it is also less distinctively "Chico" and more resembles
any growing urban area.
> Are there things to do?
Yes, thanks partly to the college and the students
Concerts, nightclubs, murals, hip cafes, things like that are downtown.
Bidwell Mansion near downtown is a historic site with tours.
Chico has a large park along the creek stretching into the foothills
called Bidwell Park. It is a great place to hike, picnic, and bicycle.
There is a nice enclosed playground called Caper Acres, near the One Mile swimming area in Bidwell Park.
There is a mall, and we recently got a Trader Joe's!
It's close to Lake Oroville, and not far from Lassen Peak
and Mount Shasta. There are college sports and some minor league
sports events. There is an indoor soccer court, at least
one tennis club, several fitness clubs, and a couple of golf courses.
> What is the weather like year round?
Being in the Central Valley, it tends to be very hot
in the summer. Fall and spring are pleasant weather. Winter is
cold and rainy, but that's relative. It very seldom freezes.
The weather is ideal for orchards; current crops are
walnuts and almonds. This can be a problem if you are allergy-prone,
since these orchard produce massive amounts of pollen, which the wind
blows around in the spring.
There are quite a few citrus trees, mostly oranges left over
from previous crops. Many homes, on the westside have been built in the middle of remnants of former orchards.
The founder of Chico, John Bidwell, started a tradition of experimental
agriculture, and so there are plants and trees from all over the
world. So if you are allergic to anything, you may find
it in Chico! (I am allergic to walnut pollen because of living here)
The east end of Chico isn't quite as bad, more grasslands, but fewer trees in general.
Another problem: Chico seems a lot more sophisticated
than the nearby towns, but the economy is still very agriculture centered, farm equipment manufacturing and the like.
This is changing; there is a big industrial park near the airport,
(which has service to San Francisco) and there are some high tech
firms there. But a big part of the job market is service oriented,
or connected with the University or other schools.
> How is the school system?
Overall pretty good, again speaking as a non-parent,
but my wife worked for a number families and
teachers, and there didn't seem to be huge complaints.
Maybe some problems with
the downtown high school.
There are also some various private schools.
The local papers are the Chico Enterprise Record (www.chicoer.com
and the Chico News and Review.
The main school district is the Chico Unified School District (CUSD).
Maybe you can find more specific info on schools through one of those
Hope this Helped!