– Aug 1, 2020(4 replies)
We had been thinking of moving to Sonoma County for a number of years, but took it off the table after the fires. However, now we are reconsidering because we are interested in sending our child to Summerfield Waldorf School. There are some helpful BPN threads on moving to the Petaluma/Sebastopol/Santa Rosa area, but most are a few years old so thought I'd post again. A friend did raise concern about the spraying of pesticides on vineyards in the area. We'd also welcome any thoughts on Summerfield. Thanks!Aug 1, 2020
I grew up in Sebastopol, and my parents still live there. It was a wonderful place to grow up, and we love to visit as a getaway from living in a city (we're in Berkeley). It's a very small town, so it's definitely a change in pace and lifestyle. Santa Rosa is a bigger city, and experiences vary by neighborhood, but it's a beautiful place. Petaluma is somewhere in between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa in terms of size, but is also beautiful and has a cute downtown area. Plus it's closer to Berkeley/Oakland/San Francisco, which is a nice bonus.
I lived in the city of Sonoma for five years (pre-child) and really enjoyed it. It's true fires have become an issue so you'd want to work with a realtor to consider areas of (relatively) lower risk. Sonoma County is pretty eco-conscious and I can't remember pesticide residues being a concern (someone else may know differently); also many of the vineyards there are farmed organically/sustainably now and overall pesticide use has declined. Be mindful of right-to-farm protections for ag, which in a nutshell means that you can't move to an agricultural area and complain about noise from tractors, smell from manure applications, etc., though those things won't impact you if you live in a town.
Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg are all great towns. Santa Rosa has more services and less "character" than the smaller towns but is livable and friendly. The area around Montgomery Village is especially nice. There are lots of outdoor opportunities all over the county, varied terrain, great produce, friendly people, warm summer days with balmy evenings. Traffic does get worse every year so your commutes would need to factor in. Good luck!
We moved from Piedmont Ave/Oakland area to Santa Rosa.
SUMMERFIELD - Our friends have two children at Summerfield. They are finding that their high schooler was ill-prepared for the PSAT given the coursework for high school kids. He will need to take online and week-long intensives for the SATs. The focus of the school is on nature, farming and outdoors education. It is in many ways a 19th century education. Camping trips are scheduled throughout the school year. Any sports needs will need to met outside of the school community as there is very little to offer in that regards. For the younger ones, there is no learning the alphabet until grade 2 or 3. Our friends said that the kids did this in first and second grade: cut out dolls and whittling. I think for the little ones it is probably a wonderful and wholesome environment. I like that technology is not the focus of the school, until 10th grade. Many families chose Sonoma Academy prep for high school, leaving after 8th grade.
FIRES... this is the main reason we will be moving away after our son graduates from HS. I live in the Montgomery Village area and we have been spared from actual damage and power shut-offs. We can't escape the air though. I developed a lung infection after the first set of fires in 2017. I know of at least ten women who did so as well - all ages too, not just middle aged like me LOL. It was a sad and incredibly tense time after the fires. We all know someone who lost a home (I know of 8 families) and it is devastating. We have PTSD - every time we hear a fire truck siren.
NICE AREAS - Petaluma is very quaint and I love going there to dine and shop. Petaluma has been lucky and has avoided fires, so I would assume it is a safer area of Sonoma County. Your neighbors will be from a broad spectrum including old timers who work in agriculture, hip chef-owners, and escapees from SF who wanted more land. Sebastopol is the "Berkeley" of Sonoma County. I love it there too. It is a smallish city with craftsman homes and rural homesteads. A progressive area. Sebastopol was at-risk to fires during the Kincaide fires of 2019. They survived. Feel free to ask me about other issues.