s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Longtime residents of the Bernard Eldredge-Lucchesi Park area lament the loss of the neighborhood?s open setting, but laud its new amenities

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

(Editor?s note: This is the second in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)

In the 1950s and ?60s, a small, tightly knit neighborhood surrounded by beautiful open fields and known for its decidedly slow pace of life resided north of East Washington Street, between North McDowell Boulevard and what is now Sonoma Mountain Parkway.

Gradually, as more homes, Bern-ard Eldredge Elementary School, Lucc-hesi Park and nearby shop-ping centers were built, the appearance, feeling and pace of the area dramatically changed. By the ?90s, many of the original in-habitants had moved away and the new residents included several Hispanic families, thereby diversifying the traditionally Caucasian neighborhood.

Some longtime residents miss the former intimacy and raw, natural beauty of the neighborhood, but enjoy many of the appealing additions.

?It?s a mixed blessing,? said Gerald Moore, who has lived with wife Mary Edith on East Madison Street in the neighborhood since 1977. ?When we moved here, we had a beautiful view of the farmlands and Sonoma Mountain. But now there are a lot more amenities, including restaurants.?

When they moved to Petaluma, Gerald and Mary Edith were biomedical scientists at the Presidio in San Francisco. Gerald now is retired, but since 2003 has been the chair of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance. He also is an avid nature photographer, and taught a basic photography class at the Petaluma Community Center from 1995 to 2005.

Moore saw Lucchesi Park being developed, and helped to plant trees there. He now regularly walks by many of those trees in the park, which houses a soccer field, Little League baseball field, playground, community center, senior center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Petaluma headquarters.

?My wife and I go through the park when we take our two-to-three mile walk several days each week,? Moore said. ?I used to be the photographer for the Petaluma Community Center in the park, and still take photos there a lot.?

Moore, 67, says he never considers living anywhere else.

?I like the location, and enjoy living here ? and I intend to stay until I?m carried out in a pine box,? he said, laughing.

The 1950s and ?60s

Like Moore, Al Pedrani, a former resident, helped to plant trees in the neighborhood at another location, the Bernard Eldredge parking lot.

?The school was built when I was growing up, and I attended it the first year it opened,? Pedrani said.

Pedrani, who now resides in Walnut Creek, lived with his family in a home on Jeffery Drive while growing up in the ?50s and ?60s.

?When I was a kid, I thought that the house was huge, but when I went back there as an adult I found that it actually is quite small,? he said, laughing.

Pedrani, 55, said that the neighborhood was filled with fields, but lacked entertainment facilities.

?Downtown and the Petaluma Fairgrounds were the only places to go for entertainment. Kids from my neighborhood liked to go to the fairgrounds? roost dances and skating rink,? he said.

Another former resident, Glenn Alexander, who grew up while living on Joan Drive from 1960 to 1975, has fond memories of the neighborhood.

?It was a quaint place, with very few rentals, and everyone knew each other,? he said. ?The kids went to the same schools and families had a lot of block parties.?

In contrast to this former stability and preponderance of families, over 45 percent of the neighborhood?s current residents have lived there for less than five years and only 211 out of 727, or 29 percent, of the households have children.

Alexander, 49, now lives in the Newnan-Sharpsburg area of Georgia, about 20 miles from Atlanta, and works for Eagle Global Logistics, an international air freight company.

?I now live in the country, and the downtown area is small and quaint. It reminds me of how Petaluma used to be,? he said.

Growing pains

Alexander was struck by the extensive development in the neighborhood and Petaluma, in general, when he last visited in 1987. He has been keeping tabs on the city through the Argus-Courier?s online Web site, and has become alarmed at the recent wave of gang crimes and unusual, notorious characters in the city.

?I?m afraid to go back now,? he said.

Some current residents have reported an increase in crime in the neighborhood, partly due to escalating vandalism and other incidents in Lucchesi Park.

?The park isn?t safe after dark,? said Kirk Massey, 51, who has lived off and on in a family home on East Madison Street since 1966. ?But when I was growing up, the whole area was safe. Nobody locked their doors and no graffiti was to be found.?

Massey enjoyed the free, open feeling of the Petaluma of his youth.

?Petaluma had the small-town atmosphere of a dairy town, and a lot of open space. Lucchesi Park hadn?t been built, so that area was like a play land for me and my friends. We would drive motorcycles through the open fields, and had the whole area to ourselves,? he said.

Despite subsequent changes, Massey, like Moore, still likes the neighborhood.

?It?s conveniently located ? everything is just a stone?s throw away,? said Massey, who works as an alcohol and drug rehabilitation counselor for Campo Bello Chemical Dependency Recovery Center in Santa Rosa.

Martin McKeay, a resident of Joan Drive for nearly the past 20 years, also enjoys the neighborhood?s convenient location and is utilizing the park, in particular, more than ever after retiring from his job last year as a director and teacher of the developmentally disabled for Petaluma Adult School. He picks up at least one piece of trash as he walks his yellow Lab around the park every day.

?After a heavy rain last year, my dog was able to catch a mole that was not able to go very far back into its hole due to the water table. She now sniffs out every golfer hole on our walks, and even points with one leg, as if she is approaching a bird,? he said.

McKeay, 64, particularly enjoys the neighborhood children.

?I invited about 50 of them to one of the Masons? downtown Christmas parties,? said McKeay, a member of Peta-luma Hamilton Lodge No. 180.

McKeay feels the neighborhood still is very friendly.

?We help each other out, but as Spanish-speaking families have moved into the neighborhood, communication has become very difficult between some of them and the other neighbors,? he said.

Latino families

Spanish-speaking residents have added color and vibrancy to the neighborhood, and to Lucchesi Park, in particular, where many of them participate in the highly competitive soccer matches and on weekends have parties and play music from their native lands.

One of the first Hispanic families to move into the neighborhood ? Juan and Ortencia Gonzalez and their five children ? lived in several areas of Petaluma before buying a home from a retired couple on Maria Drive in 1992.

While the children progressed through the school system, Ortencia worked for the Petaluma People Services Center and Juan worked for Petaluma Poultry and ran a landscaping business. After years of struggling, the family bought an attractive home in Penngrove in 2002.

?My parents were poor when they came to the United States from Mexico, and my father always dreamed of owning a nice piece of land. He struggled very much, so I?m happy for him,? said Maribel, one of the couple?s daughters.

She said her family enjoyed living on Maria Drive.

?We got along fine with our neighbors there. When they became aware that my father does landscaping, they wanted to hire him,? said Gonzalez, a 2000 graduate of Casa Grande High School who now works as a physical therapist in Petaluma.

(Contact Dan Johnson at dan.johnson@arguscourier.com)