Like every other city in the world, it seems, Petaluma has made friends with progress. But what makes this Bay Area suburb unique is that they’ve put their foot down when it comes to preserving what they’ve already got going: a close-knit, charming community built around a historic downtown. Petaluma was only the second city in the country to initiate a growth control measure. In 1972, the city capped approval of new homes at just 500 units per year. Today, residents behind the Petaluma Neighborhood Association remain vigilant against overly commercial development such as big box centers. That’s not to say that growth in Petaluma is on pause. In 2003, the city approved a plan to steer growth toward downtown based on a vote in which residents decided that subdivisions could no longer be built on farmland adjacent to the community. Since then, roughly 430 housing units have been built or approved in the new Theater District. Even as these sleek new developments have risen into the skyline, Petalumans have been excruciatingly careful to make sure they blend with their historic surroundings. The functionality of downtown is changing, but the ambiance is still a slow nod to the good ole days. Across the city, neighborhoods are managing to hold on to their personalities in the midst of rapid-fire change. Turtle Creek is for the outdoorsy types, crisscrossed with hiking paths and bike trails and brimming with parks. Oak Hill Park is an austere historic district near downtown, where stately homes lend an air of quiet dignity. Meadow is a communal, family neighborhood near an award-winning school on the east side, where the streets are named after wines. The River Warehouse District, La Tercera, Downtown, Old McDowell Village, McNear Landing and D Street are Petaluma’s other distinctive neighborhoods, spreading proudly across the city. No matter where you choose to live in Petaluma, or what may happen once you get there, you can be sure of one thing: The charm you fell in love with isn’t going anywhere.