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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Peaceful Valley mixes urban living, recreation

By Terence Vent The Spokesman-Review

Peaceful Valley is a stone’s throw from downtown Spokane, but if you walk its streets you are more likely to encounter a park ranger than a meter maid.

And its main drag is the Spokane River.

“The river is the heart of the neighborhood,” said Peaceful Valley Neighborhood Council Secretary Jan Loux.

“This is a popular place for floating the river,” said council Chair Bill Forman. “On these hot summer days, you’ll see all sorts of people floating along the river.”

Everything about Peaceful Valley seems to be designed to block the neighborhood off from the rest of Spokane. A steep bluff blocks the south end while the river cuts off the north. A single street connects the east end to the city, and the west end is pinched between river and bluff.

The council shepherds a neighborhood of fewer than a thousand residents on less than half a square mile. “We have a lot of tiny homes on really small lots,” said Forman. “That way, you’ve got less lawn to mow.”

The council’s chief concern is working around an extensive city construction project designed to harness the heavy stormwater flow through the valley. “The whole hillside is a watershed,” Loux said.

City workers are installing a 50,000-gallon stormwater tank, new piping for sewer and stormwater and a series of Combined Sewer Overflow tanks and drainage swales alongside the river.

“The east side of our neighborhood is completely torn up,” Forman said. “If you are going to work on one thing, you pretty much have to do everything at once.”

Construction near Cedar Street temporarily cut off one of the city’s most iconic staircases.

“I think the Cedar Street stairs are the steepest, the highest stairs that the city’s got,” Forman said. “They had to close (them) for a while and do the excavation and put in the new pipes; my understanding is that they are completely open now.”

Other council issues include zoning and recreation.

At a recent meeting to discuss revisions to the city’s master plan, the Peaceful Valley council petitioned for a building height revision at the top of the bluff along Riverside Avenue. The current height restriction is 150 feet, compared to 35 feet on the other side of the street.

“We feel like the building height restrictions should respect the bluff and the valley,” Loux said. “Further back off the bluff and in the city core, 150 feet seems appropriate, but it doesn’t seem appropriate right on the bluff.”

Without the zoning change, the neighborhood could eventually find itself looking up at a wall of 150-foot buildings. “We’d be in the dark,” Loux said. “It would totally overshadow the neighborhood.”

A recent planned development on the bluff – that would have funneled traffic from a three-story parking garage into Peaceful Valley – motivated the council to action. “The building would have been up on Riverside,” Loux said. “We’d have gotten the garage, so we’d have had all the traffic.”

Forman said neighborhood residents, although they accepted most of the plan, couldn’t see how Peaceful Valley’s bare-bones residential grid could handle the dramatic increase in traffic. The neighborhood council attended meetings and fought the plan, which ultimately failed to garner the needed funding and was scrapped.

“(The developer) will put something there eventually,” Forman said. “People should be free to do what they like with their property. But you’ve still got to recognize that this is a tiny, crowded neighborhood.”

The council keeps tabs on the neighborhood’s numerous recreation projects including repurposed tennis courts, a trail connection, a park renaming and a boat launch.

The cracked and peeling tennis courts in Peaceful Valley Park were converted into futsol courts. Futsol is a term shortened from the Portuguese futebol de saleo, which means “room football.”

“It’s pretty active,” Loux said of the courts. “It’s nice to see that space used.”

The South Gorge Trail project will cross Sandifur Memorial Bridge to create a loop with the Centennial Trail. Forman hopes the project will include a more formalized foot path through People’s Park.

“It seems like we’ve got all these trails going everywhere,” he said. “If we have some way-finding signs and a more formalized gravel path through there, it would get our joggers through there, moms with their strollers … it would be a great thing.”

The decision to rename Glover Field in honor of the redband trout that spawn adjacent to the park came as the result of a campaign by the Spokane Indians baseball team. Otto Klein, senior vice president of the Spokane Indians, said that the ballclub, the city and the Spokane Tribe are planning a renaming ceremony and boat launch dedication for April.

The boat launch will consist of a series of pipes and rails to facilitate sliding heavy rafts into the water. “This is a popular place for floating the river,” Forman said. “If you have a heavy river-rafting boat, it’s a pain to get it in the water.”

The next neighborhood council meeting, Aug. 29, will include a pot luck at 6 p.m., followed by a showing of the film “A League of Their Own” on the ballfield at Redband Park.

“If someone’s available to come to our pot luck and movie night on a Wednesday evening, then they are going to be available to come to my neighborhood council meeting on a Wednesday evening – and we can recruit a few more neighbors,” Forman said.

Peaceful Valley’s most well-known landmark, the “Benny and Joon” house, sits a short walking distance from the ballfield.

“Last year we had a movie night, and we actually showed ‘Benny and Joon,’ to celebrate our neighborhood,” Forman said. “(The owner) let some people go in, to check it out. It was pretty cool.”

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