Petaluma is a city in Sonoma County, California, in the
As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of
54,548. As of 2006, Petaluma's population is 56,727. Petaluma Adobe State
Historic Park contains the Rancho Petaluma Adobe, a National Historic Landmark.
It was built beginning in 1836 by General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, then
Commandant of the San Francisco Presidio. It was the center of a vast 66,000
acre (270 km²) ranch stretching from Petaluma Creek to Sonoma Creek. The adobe
is considered one of the best preserved buildings of its era in Northern
California. Petaluma is a transliteration of the Coast Miwok phrase péta lúuma
which means hill backside and probably refers to Petaluma's proximity to Sonoma
According to the Army Museum at the Presidio, San
Francisco, Petaluma was relatively unharmed during the San Francisco earthquake
of April 18, 1906, due to significant investment of stable bedrock underlying
the region, despite the town being one of the closest towns to the epicenter to
the east at Point Reyes Station. As one of the few communities in the region
left standing after the earthquake, Petaluma was the staging point for most
Sonoma County rescue and relief efforts.
Petaluma is today the location of many distinguished, well-preserved pre-1906
buildings and Victorian homes on the western side of the river. The downtown has
suffered many river floods over the years and during the Depression commerce
declined. A lack of funds prevented the demolition of the old homes and
buildings. In the 1960's the hippie migration out of San Francisco looking for
cheap, dilapidated old houses to rent or buy began to restore them, and an
active historic preservation movement started to reclaim the downtown. Traffic
and new home development for the most part was rerouted to the east of downtown
by the construction of the 101 Freeway.
With its large stock of historic buildings, Petaluma has been used as the
filming location for numerous movies set in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s (see list
of movies below). The historic McNears Building is a common film location.
In the late 1990s, Petaluma was also known as Telecom Valley due to the Telecom
Startup companies that seemed to multiply from one another, and offer great
riches if you were lucky enough to be an early stockholder or employee. Some
success stories were employees of AFC, or Cerent, which was purchased by Cisco.
Some Cerent employees went on to purchase the Phoenix Theatre, a local
entertainment venue, which was once an opera house.
There are two comprehensive high schools in Petaluma. They are Petaluma High
School and Casa Grande High School. Casa Grande High School has a notable
Academic Decathlon team, which has represented Sonoma County for the last 23
years in the state-level competition. It is led by Casa Grande High School
teacher Rick Pillsbury. There is an annual football game between the two
schools' teams is known as the "Egg Bowl". Santa Rosa Junior College has a
rapidly growing second campus on Sonoma Mountain Parkway, on the east side of
town. There is also a Roman Catholic high school, St. Vincent de Paul High
Highway 101 is the main freeway through town. Highway 116 also runs through town
as Lakeville Highway. Other major streets include East Washington Street and
North and South McDowell Boulevards.
The national spotlight shone on Petaluma in 1975 when the City was taken to
court over its restricted growth policies. The City had adopted a rate-of-growth
plan to slow the rapid new-home growth Petaluma had experienced in the 1960's.
The court battle received attention because of changing attitudes towards
California housing tract developments. The City's restriction was upheld by the
9th Circuit Court in 1975 and the Supreme Court denied a Petition for Writ of
Certiorari in 1976.
With the financial backing of local developers city council candidates won the
election in 2000 and later approved large developments throughout Petaluma.
Petaluma received national attention when 12-year-old Polly Klaas was kidnapped
from her home at knifepoint on October 1, 1993 and later raped and murdered by
Richard Allen Davis. The community pulled quickly together to publicize the
disappearance and to form the Polly Klaas Foundation for missing and exploited