Astride Highway 101, 40 miles north for San Francisco, Petaluma is the second largest city in Sonoma County with a population in 2010 estimated at about 60,450.
Founded in 1840, in its early history Petaluma served largely as an important trade area providing supplies from the north to San Francisco via the Petaluma River, which feeds into the north end of the San Francisco Bay.
Petaluma’s early roots are those of a farming center, becoming an important producer of eggs, milk and dairy products. While it continues to retain the feel of a small town with a rural, farming influence, in recent years Petaluma has come to be called Telecom Valley in recognition of a number of smaller, fast-growing companies that have started or relocated to the area. Having lower-cost housing than it’s southern neighbors and the shortest commute distance in Sonoma County, it is also home to many tradespeople and others who work outside the County.
In many ways Petaluma is like two cities in one. The original city grew up around the terminus of the Petaluma River. The old downtown still has important historical iron front commercial buildings near the River and many Victorian era homes in the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. This older area lies on the west side of Highway 101, the main traffic artery from San Francisco north through Sonoma County.
The east side of town, originally hay fields, has been the site for much of the new home building and commercial development in recent decades.
Within the eight public school districts that serve Petaluma and environs, there are 19 elementary schools, two of which have opened since 1996, two middle schools and two high schools. In addition, Santa Rosa Junior College operates a 40-acre satellite campus on the east side of Petaluma, with plans to expand these facilities.
Petaluma’s climate is fairly typical for towns along the 101 corridor in central Sonoma County. Average winter temperature ranges from 38 to 56, and in the summer from 51 to 83.
The median price of homes on the west side tends to be higher than on the east side. As of the end of July 2009 these figures were $483,750 and $390,000 respectively. While housing is less expensive in Petaluma than in other parts of the Bay Area, housing is not inexpensive vis a vis other Sonoma County communities. In fact, good quality affordable housing may be scarcer in Petaluma than most other cites in the County.