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Originally published Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Neighborhood of the week

View Ridge | A place that lives up to its name

Duane LaViolette, 85, knows the families in every one of the 17 homes on his block. He knows their names, their kids and even their pets...

Special to The Seattle Times

Population: Aout 8,830 (2007 estimate)

Distance to downtown Seattle: 7 miles

Schools: View Ridge is served by the Seattle Public Schools.

Fun fact: View Ridge had no views in 1936 — just a ridge and large evergreens. It wasn't until after removing trees, clearing land and grading streets that stunning views of Lake Washington and the Cascades emerged.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf

Duane LaViolette, 85, knows the families in every one of the 17 homes on his block. He knows their names, their kids and even their pets.

"Oh yeah, there's Dax and Romeo ... and Boss. Lots of dogs. And there's Smidgen and Zachary — they're cats," he recites.

In part, this is because the retired medical researcher has lived in View Ridge throughout his "four-dog marriage" of nearly 50 years. He also spent his childhood in the neighborhood, listening to fighter planes rev up their engines at the one-time U.S. Navy air base at nearby Sand Point.

But LaViolette's familiarity with the locals is due to more than that. Ask around, and it seems that View Ridge, a mile northeast of the University of Washington, is just that kind of neighborhood.

"Right now, if your car breaks down, you ask a neighbor, 'Can you drive us here?' and it's, 'OK, no problem,' " LaViolette says.

The roller-coaster hills of View Ridge have an untroubled air with their wide, blue views of Lake Washington and the Cascades to the east, and their sloping streets dotted with giant Douglas firs and red cedars to the west.

People feel safe here. There's plenty of older folk who keep an eye out during the day, and young families with kids stroll the streets on summer evenings. Potluck block parties are held regularly.

Real-estate agent Rhona Feldman, who lives nearby, says people move to View Ridge when they get married and rarely leave.

So when an affordable house comes up, there can be a scramble for it. In one recent home sale, Feldman says, "It came on the market on Tuesday. And within two days we had three offers." The modest 1953 two-bedroom rambler on a large lot sold above the $514,000 asking price.

Home prices in View Ridge, which was first developed in the 1930s by Ralph Jones and Albert Balch, range from about $400,000 to $1.8 million, according to various real-estate sources.

The western, more-affordable side of the hill has brick and wood homes from the 1930s to 1970s. The steep eastern hillside, spilling down to Lake Washington, is a potpourri of older homes, condos and modern glass-and-wood châteaus. Much of the area is free of power lines, which are buried under the streets.

Winslow Poage, produce manager for the local PCC Natural Markets store, says he moved to View Ridge 20 years ago and "realized there was no reason to be anywhere else."

He and his son Noel enjoy the area's three parks, including giant Magnuson Park on the water.

There are fields for baseball and soccer, playgrounds, tennis courts, a dog park, walking trails and even a pebble-and-sand beach. Sand Point Country Club is just to the north.

View Ridge Elementary School, which Bill Gates once attended, sits atop the central ridge hill, while Eckstein Middle School and Roosevelt and Nathan Hale high schools are a walk or short drive away. A Safeway, PCC and 7-Eleven store skirt the neighborhood.

With several churches and synagogues packed into the small area, it's a peaceful neighborhood all right. But the residents do have their fighting side.

This year, a new United Methodist minister proposed allowing a tent city for the homeless to sit between the church and the elementary school over the summer. A community meeting was held, and in LaViolette's words, many worried parents were "madder than hell."

Recently, LaViolette got yet another letter from a developer wanting to get his hands on the octogenarian's home, which has views to the Space Needle and was purchased for $20,000 in 1960. The developer offered him half a million. He planned to tear it down. LaViolette didn't hesitate.

"All the work I've done on it," he spat. "I didn't even acknowledge his letter. I just put it in the shredder and warned the rest of the neighbors."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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