Living in Petaluma

Parent Q&A

Seeking Realtor for Novato and Petaluma Oct 28, 2021 (1 responses below)
Moving to Petaluma with kids Mar 20, 2019 (1 responses below)
East Petaluma Feb 20, 2017 (3 responses below)
Living in Sebastapol/Santa Rosa Aug 15, 2016 (2 responses below)
  • Seeking Realtor for Novato and Petaluma

    (1 reply)

    Hello BPN! We're looking for recommendations for a real estate agent that specializes in Novato and Petaluma. Someone both knowledgeable and approachable, and especially good at working with first-time homebuyers. Thanks!

    We highly recommend Kathleen Murphy!  She is amazing!!  We had a very easy first time buying experience because of her!!  She is not only very knowledgeable but she is personable and reliable!  She is a great resource!!!

  • Moving to Petaluma with kids

    (1 reply)

    i don't know much about petaluma, i was hoping to get some advice from this forum on what type of community this is. is it diverse? is it very remote? are there asian indians living in the area? what type of people make up - is it professionals? I am in the software industry, and my spouse is an engineer , and it's important for us that our kids be among like minded educated folks (ie, parents) so they are inspired. I grew up in a city in philly, and it was a very low income city, and it was a struggle because the kids in school (and I went to a private one!) just didn't care, and the parents were working class struggling, and didn't have the time/attention to their kids. I want to avoid that with my kids. 

    RE: Moving to Petaluma with kids ()

    Hi,  Petaluma has a great downtown as well as shopping centers.  There are neighborhoods that feel remote and others that have lots of families and are close to amenities.  It's very family friendly (festivals, parades, concerts in the park, farmer's markets, after school activities and pre and post care, schools score around an 8 on Great Schools and there is a gifted program).  I wouldn't consider it a low income city.  A starter home would cost around $700,000.  There are many professionals that live there and a lot of people commute into SF from there.  You can google demographics (or check out  I work for a company that helps families figure out where to move around the Bay Area.  You can sign up to speak with me on our website if you'd like to discuss Petaluma or anywhere else in the Bay Area.  

  • East Petaluma

    (3 replies)

    Hi, we're thinking of moving to East Petaluma, but are concerned about crime. Posts (on BPN and other sites) talk about gangs and crime, but when we visit it looks fine.  What are we missing?

    RE: East Petaluma ()

    You could call the local police department to get a better sense of what's going on.  Also look at websites that discuss crime data, like AreaVibes.

    RE: East Petaluma ()

    Hi! If you are moving to Petaluma from a small town, yeah, you might think crime there is out of control! But my in-laws moved to E. Petaluma 3 years ago and we visit them and stay up there all the time and I can tell you, it is like a tiny backwater town compared to where we all moved from: Oakland. And we all lived in the "nice part" of the Oakland hills, and there were holdups at gunpoint down our street, carjackings at our school, teachers pistol-whipped near the campus, and constant smash and grabs. In fact, on the last night that I was moving out of our house, at 3 a.m. no less, a box containing random C.D.s, cleaning products and moving odds n ends that I had placed near my car door, in my driveway! was stolen. Kind of a goodbye and F.U. as well from Oakland. In Petaluma, my in-laws have a great neighborhood, neighbors that bring fruit and produce to share from their gardens, no burglaries, no car break-ins, no vandalism, and the house they bought cost 1/2 of what it would cost in Oakland and is twice as big. My young sons love it there in Petaluma; they go to the skateboard park and swimming pool and movie theatre and feel safe walking around. But again, I am comparing this to Oakland. And I am sure that Petaluma neighborhoods vary a lot by exact location, just like here. My advice to you would be to find a really great real estate agent in Petaluma, one who is from S.F. or Oakland or a major city and so has a different metric to compare crime to, and get their advice. Even if you aren't going to buy a home right now, they can help steer you to good areas to rent, as it is in their interest to build good connections with community members who are likely to become homeowners in the future.

    RE: East Petaluma ()

    I grew up on the east side of Petaluma, went to Mcdowell Elementary, Kenilworth Jr High, and Casa Grande High School. My parents and older sister and her family still live there on the east side. My sister lives right near La Tercera Elementary and my parents live on Vista Lane. I had a good childhood there although that was in the 80s and 90s, but I go back frequently to visit my family and it seems basically the same as it ever was to me. Maybe there are bad parts of the east side of Petaluma now, but I haven't heard of it from anyone I know who lives there.

  • Living in Sebastapol/Santa Rosa

    (2 replies)

    We are planning to relocate from Menlo Park to Sonoma County (job will be in Rohnert Park).  We have narrowed it down to Sebastapol and Santa Rosa, based on commute distance and talking with friends.  Can anyone comment on desirable communities in this area?  By this, I mean areas with nice homes, low crime, good schools, access to open spaces/parks/sports teams, diverse residents, and good grocery stores.  We have 3 kids ages 6 months to 4 years.  We are interested in the public Waldorf Charter schools they have in Sebastapol, as well as the private Summerfield Waldorf school.  We are also interested in the arts enrichment program in the Gravenstein elementary school district.  If anyone has made this move from the Bay Area to this part of the North Bay, I'd love to hear about your experience.  Any recommendations for neighborhoods, schools, realtors, etc are greatly appreciated.  

    Thank you so much!  

    I grew up in SR and even went to kindergarten at Summerfield Waldorf. The Rincon Valley area of SR is generally considered to be the "nice" part of town with bigger newer homes, near parks like Annadel State Park and Spring Lake and near Oliver's Market, my favorite grocery store hands down. Rincon Valley is somewhat suburban but near open space and parks. It feeds into the "nice" (read: wealthier) public schools. Don't know about the elementary schools other than a fairly new French/American bilingual charter school that's really popular. 3 of the high schools in town tends to draw transfer kids from all over the city depending on interest. Santa Rosa High has the ArtQuest program and draws all the artsy kids. Montgomery (where I went) has an International Baccalaureate program. Maria Carrillo is the Rincon Valley HS and has a reputation these days of being a stressful academic pressure cooker. Don't know how it compares to Silicon Valley public schools in that regard.

    West Santa Rosa, closer to Sebastopol and Summerfield Waldorf, around Guerneville Rd, Hall Road, Willowside Road area, is beautiful and much more rural/agricultural. (A friend who grew up off Guerneville Rd around there raised chickens and a llama in her backyard.) I don't know much about the public schools in west Santa Rosa. If your kids will be at one of the Waldorf schools, though, that may not matter as much. 

    Good luck! It's a wonderful area to grow up. 

    Have you considered Petaluma? We moved from the East Bay up here and love it. The schools are great, and Live Oak Charter school ( is Waldorf. It has everything on your wish list.

    In Sebastapol, I've heard the Twin Hills School District is good. The whole town seems like a "good neighborhood" to me – it's small and community-oriented, not much crime. You could probably just visit for a weekend, check out the farmers' market or The Barlow, and just strike up a conversation with some families. 

    We don't know Santa Rosa as well, but we have friends who live in Bennett Valley and love it. 

Parent Reviews

We moved to Petaluma three years ago when my son was starting K. I've been very pleased with the schools and the easy lifestyle compared to Oakland. All the schools in the entire City of Petaluma are great all the way through high school. Plus, housing costs are still low compared to the East Bay and the restaurant scene is amazing. However, I commute to Oakland three days a week and it is torture, especially the 10 miles between Novato and Petaluma. I wish we would have spent a little more money to buy in Novato. In addition, ss someone else commented, there are fewer places to take young kids in Sonoma County compared to the East Bay. Initially, we really missed Fairyland, Chabot, Oakland Zoo, Lawrence Hall of Science, etc., but once we got involved in school activities we didn't have much time for museums and such anyway. Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving Family to Petaluma from Oakland!

Feb 2015

 Hello BPN...we are seriously considering relocating our family from Oakland to Petaluma this summer. Our kids will be entering 2nd and 4th grades. My partner mostly works remotely, but will need to travel into Sf 1-2 a week (can be off commute hours). What I need advice about is from anyone who has moved there or has lived there a while. We've spent a fair amount of time there and really like the slower pace of life, safety, charm, and restaurants. We haven't, however, spent enough time to get to know the culture or vibe of other young families our age. We're in our late 30's - hubby is an engineer and I stay home full time. What's the vibe like..some people try to tell me there's lots of 'hicks' in Petaluma, which I am not buying. Why choose west vs. east side (Waugh schools seem to be 'best' but east side doesn't have the same charm)? Are there many other stay-at-home parents? What do folks do for entertainment - like on a date night? Schools - we want a public school that has dedicated teachers and strikes a balance between traditional and more progressive educational practices (or at least has an open mind to this: understands learning differences, less homework for elementary school, lots of enrichment, etc). We really need a school with class sizes are below 28 (like we have here in Oakland). I am just trying to get a sense of where to focus our search, largely based around the schools, through high school. I am very involved in our kids' school and hope to find a community of parents who are engaged with their kids' school, but not stressed about it either. Our kids are good students, very outgoing, love sports, art & music! We have one kid who's very active in sports and martial arts, and another who's all about music and art. Which schools have all this? Lastly, how do you like living there? Are us east bay folks who are getting rapidly priced out, over romanticizing Petaluma? Chris

I used to live in Petaluma.  Bottom line: go for it!  Petaluma is fantastic. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Petaluma or Novato?

Feb 2015

We are moving to the north bay and trying to get a sense for the different areas. We know Petaluma better and assumed we would move there, but it may be better to be farther south for my husband's job so we are considering Novato too. I do not feel like I know Novato well at all. What are the differences between the two cities? What is the 'culture' of them? What do you love about either one? What's the outdoor life like (hiking, mtn biking?)? Any info would be helpful. Thank you!

I live nearby and visit both frequently.

Novato has a more suburban feel, with a very small 'old town' (which I think is kind of manufactured). Convenient rather than charming. Shopping at the mall is very convenient (Target, Costco, other chain stores). Most of the neighborhoods are pretty nice and some (like Ignacio) can even be rather rustic. Aside from Finnegan's bar, I don't know of much night life. Novato is still part of Marin County with Marin County services (great library system, recreation services, etc.). It is a little more conservative than most of Marin.

Petaluma is larger, has a more vibrant music scene, antique stores, places to eat, a more interesting downtown. It's a town/small city emerging from a farm background (former chicken capital). My friends who live there (alternative artsy types) have said they've found it difficult to make friends and find kindred spirits-they are in the late 50s/early 60s demographic. They also say prices in Sonoma county are often higher than in Marin county, where they used to live. They live on the rustic and charming west side on a former chicken ranch. The east side is more concrete and urban.

Highway 101 northbound into Petaluma is very jammed between 3-6 pm weekday afternoons due to commute traffic. Check to get a feel for the commute issues in the area throughout the day; that may be the deciding factor.

Once you're outside either town, there are ranches, farms, and open space. Both have back roads that connect you to the Point Reyes area. Spend some time driving the backroads to get a feel, and do a hike at Rush Creek (halfway between the two). North Bay Transplant

Should we move to Petaluma?

Jan 2013

We live and rent in Berkeley with our two small kiddos. We love it here, and yet periodically we're driven bonkers by the callousness and carelessness that come with living in such a populated area (the reckless driving, the crime, navigating schools, etc) and we're frustrated by the housing market (we want to buy, but we'd spend so much for so little). We're entertaining the idea of a move to Petaluma as we don't have jobs that require regular access to the city. It seems like a pretty great town, but we don't know it well, and we've been city-dwellers our entire adult lives, so we're using our (perhaps too rosy) imaginations to fill in the blanks. Has anyone else made this move? Have any thoughts about schools (we're public, whether in Berkeley or Petaluma), cultural issues/limitations/contrasts (the potential narrowness in perspectives is a concern)? Thanks for any info! Anon

I think that most of Sonoma County has a much higher quality of life than we do here in the East Bay. I personally love Petaluma and I also love Santa Rosa. First of all, Sonoma County is more diverse than everyone thinks, depending on where you live anyway, Santa Rosa definitely has an African American community that a lot of people do not know about. Petaluma has a small town feel definitely, but geographically it is not that far from Marin County and is quite accessible. Lots of people from Petaluma and Sonoma Co. in general commute to San Francisco because Golden Gate transit works so well for that. (it's a thousand times better than AC transit!) Sonoma Co. boasts one of the best community colleges in the State, Santa Rosa JC, with a campus in Petaluma too now. Also, Sonoma State U. is there, with that fabulous new music entertainment venue. I won't say traffic is a lot less because 101 can get very congested. The schools can't be any WORSE than the bay area, if not better, and it's just easier to get outdoors and be active. former Sonoma Co. resident

Be careful not to over-idealize Petaluma. I often see posts about how wonderful to live in a small town, etc. I grew up there - there is (and was) still drugs, violence, and everything else that happens in the Bay Area. The schools are possibly worse, definitely not better (graduate of PHS and my mom still works there). People from the Bay Area often have this feeling that everything in Petaluma is idyllic and I don't know why but it is just like any other place, if worse public transit and slightly more boring. petaluma native 

Moving to Petaluma

April 2008

Does anyone have any recent info about living in Petaluma? We are considering a move from Oakland to Petaluma with our small kids. The east side looks nice to us but we really know nothing about it except through cruising around. Housing cost and pace of living are very appealing. Any thoughts about moving from the east bay to Petaluma? Schools? Diversity? Etc. Hmmmm

We moved up to Petaluma in 2003 after 7 years in Berkeley, we love it here. There is so much that I can help you with, and no, I'm not a realtor! There are lots of SF and East Bay 'refugees' up here so I'd be happy to help you out in making the dicision. m.

I lived in San Francisco before I got married, moved north to Rohnert Park before we finally ended up in the East Bay. Sonoma County is a great place to live, and we actually spent a lot of time looking for a home in Petaluma before moving back to the Bay Area. My best friend moved from LA to Petaluma a few years ago and loves it. The east side is the ''newer'' side, west side has a lot of beautiful historic homes. Petaluma is small town living with all the advantages of being near a big city. Great restaurants, cafes, shopping, and they now have a movie theater. You have easy access to the wine country or coast, all kinds of festivals and fairs. You don't have to venture far for fresh eggs, milk, produce, no air polution... Good schools, lots of activities for the kids. Wish we could live there but the commute is too far for my husband and I. Only downside I can think of is the traffic on 101, but if you are not commuting every day, it is not really a problem. Maybe we will move back

Petaluma as lower-cost alternative?

May 2007

We're moving back to the bay area and would love to be in the Albany/Berkeley area but are intimidated with the ever pricey homes. We are starting to think about Petaluma as a lower cost alternative. Anyone out there who has moved there from the East Bay? I'd also love to hear from anyone with advice on the area. We have two small children so schools are an issue. We're coming from a 2 year stint in a small town with a pretty conservative feel and are more than ready for a change! Wondering if Petaluma leans too far in that direction. Thanks in advance for any input. Jackie

Hi Jackie YES! to the Petaluma move!...we lived in Berkeley for 7 years and happily moved to Petaluma 3 1/2 years ago. we have a 4 year old and a 1 year old. We love it! The local school system ROCKS! Contrary to popular East Bay is NOT totally overrun with right wing extremists! the split is about 80/20 to with the 80% going to the LEFT! We have a lot of SF & East Bay ''refugees'' and it's great! Although maybe not as less expensive as you may hope!!? moniz

Have you ever consider Benicia? It's affortable and close to Easy Bay. It's 20 plus minutes to the Bay Bridge and 10 mins or so to Walnut Creek so it's not a bad commute and there is a ferry service into the city. If there is anything else you like to know please email me. A great and safe community with a lots of parks. Amy

We just moved from Petaluma to Albany and I am happy to share with you my personal experiences and information about schools etc... Without knowing your circumstances and what exactly you are looking for, it is hard to say if it would work for you or not. It is a growing community with a great deal to offer, but it really depends on what you are looking for. There is a liberal community within Petaluma, but there is also a conservative one. They don't have a parents network, but a 'mothers club' - you can check it out at: Rachella