(Editor?s note: This is one in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)
Ask the folks who live south of Caulfield Lane, between St. Francis Drive and South McDowell Boulevard, what their neighborhood is like, and there?s a recurring response: ?Stable.?
Whether they live on Lombardi Avenue, Glenwood or Berrydale drives or one of the side streets, residents of the neighborhood offer similar observations ? many longtime families, leading to a shift from younger to older children, and a general feeling that they?ve found a place to call home in Petaluma.
?I love it here,? said Glenwood Drive?s Jo Ann Rinaldo. ?It?s an attractive area. We have long-term neighbors all around us and I don?t ever plan to move again.?
Ray Handyside, who lives on Lombardi, remembers he was initially unsure about buying a home there.
?When I first came here with my wife, I told her, ?There?s no way we?ll have a family in this funky little town,? he said.
That was 45 years ago.
?Now you couldn?t blow me out of here with dynamite,? he said.
In fact, the retired engineer has found his own way to put an imprint on his neighborhood ? he?s the man responsible for the topiary of shaped shrubbery in the median strip on Lombardi.
Handyside said he started the whimsical landscaping project ? featuring bushes trimmed into the shape of various animals ? years ago because the city didn?t want to put any money into maintaining the Lombardi median.
?It?s right in front of my home and it?s a creative thing to do,? he said. ?I opted to give it a shot and it worked out fairly well.?
Handyside said City Hall ?has been very cooperative? in allowing him to continue the eye-catching work, which has become a point of pride in the neighborhood.
?Everybody knows about the topiary,? said Kathy Matt, who lives on nearby Pacific Avenue.
The first homes in the neighborhood, known as the Monarch subdivision, were built in the early 1960s. Others followed a few years later.
Longtime residents remember sharing their part of east Petaluma with a lot more four-legged neighbors in those days.
?When we first moved in, our back yard was a farm,? said Donald Petro, a retired general contractor who with his wife, Gwen, and their first child moved into their Glenwood Drive home 40 years ago.
?There was only one traffic light in the whole city,? he recalled. ?That?s a world of difference from the way it is now.?
Handyside, too, remembers the neighborhood had much different surroundings when he bought his home in the early ?60s.
?Weeds were all around us and Caulfield Lane was basically a ditch,? he said.
Kathy Matt?s home on Pacific Avenue was adjacent to pastureland when she and her husband, George, moved there in 1966.
?You could just throw the grass cuttings over the fence and the cows ate them,? she said. ?The next thing I knew there were two-story homes in the pasture.?
But while the surrounding area developed rapidly, much of the neighborhood itself has remained fairly consistent. Many residents know of several neighbors who are original owners and said that adds to the feeling of stability there.