(Editor?s note: This is one in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)
When Mary Ann Kendall moved to Wren Drive 15 years ago, her closest neighbors loved to simply hang out all day and occasionally make loud noises in a field that was separated from her home by a fence.
She enjoyed these cows and the open field, but eventually they were replaced by people and houses, reflecting the loss of much of the Arroyo Park/Village East neighborhood?s rural spaciousness. Kendall and many other residents aren?t crazy about this change, but they laud the unspoiled nature of the remaining open space around them as well as many of the neighborhood?s other qualities, such as its cohesiveness, clean and attractive appearance, peacefulness, relative safety and convenient location.
?All of the construction has changed the neighborhood quite a bit, but I always have felt safe and have a lot of friends here,? said Kendall, who moved six years ago to Marylyn Circle, partly because of the relatively high test scores recorded by nearby schools. ?Many of us raised our children together, and had fun doing things like taking them out together on Halloween.?
The Fourth of July also was a special time.
?My husband, David, always had the biggest, baddest fireworks when the kids were growing up,? said Jeannine Van Etten, who has lived on Village East Court since 1992. ?It wasn?t the Fourth of July until he lit the first fireworks.?
?But the neighborhood changed after the children grew up,? Kendall added. ?It now is more transient, and we have a lot of different age groups. It also has become more ethnically diverse, which is a positive thing.?
The population of the neighborhood has jumped from 561 in 1990 to 947 in 2006, and is projected to hit 1,049 by 2011. During this time, the number of housing units has risen from 208 to 317, and is forecast to reach 433 by 2011.
The median age has risen from 33.3 in 1990 to 40.5 in 2006. The percentage of people over 44 years old has jumped from 12.8 percent to 41.5 percent during this time, and the median household income has risen from $53,780 to $96,895. And the portion of Hispanics is expected to increase from 10.7 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2011.
Pauline Schneider, who, like Kendall, moved to the neighborhood because the housing was affordable, feels that generally it now consists of two groups ? older residents, many of whom live in the Shelter Hills subdivision of townhouses on Marylyn Circle where she resides, and younger families living in the Village East subdivision south of Arroyo Park, among other places.
?Shelter Hills isn?t a seniors-only complex, but there aren?t many kids and families here. Most of the people living on Village East Drive and other nearby streets are younger folks,? Schneider said, adding that she feels her immediate neighbors are cohesive, but not necessarily intimately connected with the rest of the neighborhood.
Stevan and Stephanie Fontana also moved to the neighborhood because of its comparative affordability.
?We wanted to buy something, and Marin was a little bit more expensive,? said Stevan, who has lived on Marylyn Circle for two years. ?We grew up in Marin and wanted to stay as close as possible. Petaluma still feels like an extension of Marin.?