Ridgecrest: Schools, easy access to city pluses of area

On a recent drizzly Sunday morning, Bob Mulvihill walked the short distance from his house to the Cafe Aroma coffee shop, his neighborhood's version of Cheers.

"They know every single person's drink and they know everybody's name," says Mulvihill, who lives in the south Shoreline neighborhood of Ridgecrest.

Mulvihill and his wife bought their house about a year ago. The California transplants had rented in the Green Lake neighborhood for nine months but couldn't find the right house for the right price in that area of Seattle, so they expanded their search north.

"We knew it wasn't that far from Seattle," Mulvihill said. "In general, you just have to move a little away from the center to get the price you can fit into."

In Ridgecrest, Mulvihill has found a neighborhood he describes as pleasant and friendly, although it lacks the bustling commercial areas that Seattle offers.

What it has, however, are houses with ample-sized backyards, schools with good reputations, and easy access to major highways.

It also has a sprinkling of businesses, such as Cafe Aroma and Crest Cinemas Center, a theater at the corner of Fifth Avenue Northeast and Northeast 165th Street that shows second-run movies.

Ridgecrest became an official neighborhood shortly after Shoreline was incorporated in 1995.

"People now have a name for the place we call home," said Patty Hale, one of the founding members of the Ridgecrest Neighborhood Association.

The neighborhood is bordered by Northeast 145th Street to the south, Northeast 175th Street to the north, Interstate 5 to the west and 15th Avenue Northeast to the east.

The Ridgecrest Neighborhood Association is working to foster a sense of community. It holds regular candidate forums and for the past six summers, has held an ice-cream social.

This year, nearly 600 people attended the event at Paramount Park, just south of Northeast 155th Street. The well-maintained park has a skateboard park and a mini climbing wall.

Hale, a substitute physical-education teacher in the Shoreline School District, moved to the neighborhood in 1982, shortly after she and her husband married.

"When looking for our first home, proximity to downtown Seattle was part of the criteria, and the school district was a huge part," Hale said.

Ridgecrest is primarily a residential area with about a half-dozen churches, three parks and about 6,200 people.

It is home to the Shoreline Library, Ridgecrest Elementary School and the East Side Police Neighborhood Association, which is used by police and staffed by volunteers.

These services attracted families for years, but Ridgecrest has moved out of reach of many homebuyers.

"Ridgecrest originally was a great place for first-time homeowners," Hale said. "Even though the homes look like starter homes, they aren't priced like starter homes."

Many of the houses built here during the post-World War II boom were small two-bedroom, one-bathroom houses on 9,000- to 10,000-square-foot lots.

While homes in Ridgecrest are generally more affordable than those in Seattle, the area has not been left out of the market boom.

"It used to be affordable to be in Shoreline," said Ridgecrest resident Irene Rel, a real-estate agent with Re/Max Metro Associates in Lake City.

Rel has watched the housing market explode in the 10 years since she bought a home. It cost $134,000 then; it's appraised at $304,000 today.

But you get a lot for your money here, Rel said.

"Those of us who live here kind of know — it's just so centrally located and easier to get to everywhere," she said. "The schools are great, and so are the neighbors."

Ridgecrest neighborhood, Shoreline

Population: about 6,200

Schools: The Shoreline School District, serving the communities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, has long been known for its quality schools and community involvement. The district serves about 9,700 students.

Housing: Of 2,367 homes, 70 percent are owner-occupied; 26.8 percent are occupied by renters; and 3.2 percent are vacant.

Nearby medical facilities: Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, Seattle; Stevens Memorial Hospital, Edmonds

Public facilities: Ridgecrest Park, Northcrest Park, Paramount Park, Shoreline Library (King County Library System)

Seattle Times staff researcher Miyoko Wolf