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Residents like neighborhood's scenic views, proximity to Petaluma River

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

Neatly tucked away on the outskirts of town, a tiny, village-like neighborhood built on a hill offers its residents features such as scenic river views and a peaceful park.

In many ways, it?s reminiscent of the type of neighborhood found in San Francisco, Boston and other large cities, but it?s actually one of the best-kept secrets in Petaluma.

It?s the McNear Landing neighborhood, a group of 146 homes that were built in three phases off of Petaluma Boulevard South near Highway 101 starting in 1997, and many of its residents rave about its quaint charm.

?I think it?s wonderful,? said Betty Coleman, who has lived on Brighton View Circle for the past 10 years. ?I live on top of the hill, and have a view of the [Petaluma] river and the hills. It?s really a lovely place.?

?It?s very quaint and peaceful,? added Sydney Brown, who has resided on Warren Drive since 1999. ?It has a village-type quality that makes it feel like San Francisco, and the river view adds an airy, spacious feature.?

Many residents said they were drawn to the neighborhood primarily because it is adjacent to the river.

?The big selling point for me was having a home on the river,? said Linda Stokely, who has resided on Chetwood Drive since 2001. ?I could throw a stone in the river from my kitchen.?

?I love the feeling of being near the water, and often walk by it,? said Sylvia Ross, who has lived on Addison Circle for the past seven years.

?I?ve staked out a one-mile walk that ends down by the river. We have a lovely walk along the river, but it stops. It would be wonderful if it connected with downtown, but that probably won?t happen in my lifetime,? said Coleman, 86.

Residents often enjoy watching boats drift by.

?During the Christmas parade, the boats come right through here. They did during the mayor?s boat parade this month, too,? Brown said.

?Pretty much every weekend, a regatta of boats comes up the river. And the barges are there. It?s neat to see a mountain of white rock going by at night,? said Scott Stevens, who has lived on Chetwood Drive for the past three years.

Stokely also enjoys the barges, but says they aren?t drifting by as frequently.

?We don?t have the big barges coming through like we used to,? she said. ?Pomeroy [Corp.] used to be across the river, but now that it?s gone, it?s deadly quiet. I miss seeing the barges come by with the tugboats.?

Many residents enjoy watching the river from the neighborhood?s small park.

?The park also is a great place for children to play,? said Anne Schenk, a resident of McNear Circle for the past nine years.

The similar-looking homes were built in phases, according to a pre-conceived architectural plan, and the neighborhood?s general aesthetic appeal attracted many eventual residents.

?And the neighborhood is well kept, because people here really care about it,? said Lynne Brown, who has resided on McNear Circle since 1998.

?Many people are upgrading their homes, such as installing marble flooring,? Stevens added.

The neighborhood?s homeowners? association pays for the maintenance of streets and most common areas, although the city owns and maintains the park.

Stokely, a past president of the homeowners? association, has seen the landscaping flourish as the neighborhood has developed.

?We now actually have decent-size trees, instead of shrubs,? she said.

The residents, like the trees and plants, have been maturing.

Census figures show that between 2000 and 2006 the portion of residents over 44 years old grew from 38.4 percent to an estimated 42.1 percent, and is expected to reach 43.7 percent by 2011.

?I miss the sound of children,? Coleman said. ?In my area, there are very few of them, and mostly hard-working adults.?

Some residents, including Schenk, feel that the neighborhood still has a strong family atmosphere, though.

?A lot of families have small children, and have gotten to know each other. We have a lot of neighborhood functions,? she said.

This has facilitated relationships between the adults, who have become a better-educated, higher-earning bunch over the years. The median household income rose from $62,336 in 2000 to an estimated $70,914 in 2006, as the portion of residents with a bachelor?s or master?s degree increased from 40.8 percent to 47.0 percent.

Also, the cozy bunching of homes has helped forge relations between neighbors.

?The homes are close together, so we have needed to learn to live with each other, and everyone seems pretty respectful,? Sydney Brown said.

The close proximity of houses can be helpful in other respects, as well.

?I think part of the reason that we?re such a safe neighborhood is because we?re so close,? Stokely said. ?When my son was a teenager, if he threw a party when I was away for a weekend, I heard about it, because my neighbors all heard it.?

Some residents would prefer to have a bit more space, though.

?The homes are too close together. The city should never have allowed this. It?s too close for fire safety and it?s too noisy,? Ross said.

?We have breathing room, but the homes are a little too close together for me,? Schenk added.

Residents voiced some other concerns and complaints about the neighborhood, including: the danger of children being so close to busy Petaluma Boulevard South; kids racing up and down the hill on skateboards; walkways between houses being too narrow; and increasing congestion due to more cars.

And some residents are disappointed that their effort to establish a dock at McNear Landing was unsuccessful. The city owns the land where the dock would have been built.

But all of the residents interviewed seemed to be as captivated as Lynne Brown by the neighborhood?s charm.

?I absolutely love my home, and there?s just something about the neighborhood. It?s small and appealing,? she said.

(John Jackson and Corey Young contributed to this article. Contact Dan Johnson at dan.johnson@arguscourier.com)