Thursday, January 14, 2010

Zillow decides: the Washington Park neighborhood is part of Madison Valley

For some reason, seeing Madison Park misrepresented on maps really irritates me; so I’ve made it my mission to at least try to get these geographical mistakes corrected whenever I find them. In furtherance of that effort, I’ve been trying literally for months to get Zillow to acknowledge the fact that the Washington Park section of Madison Park is not located in a fictitious Seattle neighborhood called Harrison/Denny-Blaine, which is where Zillow had securely placed it.

Zillow is an influential real estate website that increasing numbers of homeowners and buyers regularly consult in order to help estimate not only the value of their own houses, but the value of their neighbors’ houses as well. Given that Washington Park is a vital component of the Madison Park community, it seemed to me that Zillow ought to include that enclave in its evaluation of Madison Park property values. Or, at minimum, it should break out Washington Park as a separate neighborhood; much as Zillow treats Broadmoor, Madison Park’s other tony subunit.

As I’ve reported on this blog (perhaps ad nauseam), the City of Seattle is ultimately responsible for the silly idea the Harrison/Denny-Blaine is a Seattle neighborhood and that much of Washington Park is a part of it. Zillow accepted the City’s perverse designation, calling the neighborhood simply Denny-Blaine (which is, in reality, just that sliver of a gold-coast neighborhood to the south of us). I supposed that anyone looking at the situation logically would see the perverseness of the City’s position. And since Zillow is a local company, some of whose principals have current or historic ties to Washington Park, I thought it would relatively easy to get their attention to this situation. .
Well, I am happy to report that Zillow has finally made the change to its map of our area, confirming that Washington Park is not in Denny-Blaine. Zillow has now concluded, however, that Washington Park is a neighborhood in Madison Valley (as shown on the map below).

But before any of my readers in Madison Valley decides that I think there’s something wrong with being associated with Madison Valley, let me set the record straight. The issue as I see it is this: should the City of Seattle and third parties such as Zillow correctly identify Seattle neighborhoods based on our community of interests, our historic connections, and shared reference points, such as our business district? Or should all of those things--as well as the opinions of the people who actually live in the community--just be ignored and neighborhoods designated arbitrarily?

Zillow has apparently decided to go with the second approach, establishing a new boundary between Madison Valley and Madison Park that excludes virtually all of Washington Park from the Madison Park community. Previously, Zillow had accepted the City’s contention that the area of Washington Park near the Seattle Tennis Club (shown in the GoogleEarth photo above) was part of Denny-Blaine. Now, however, Zillow has decided that all of Washington Park, including the area west of McGilvra Boulevard, is within Madison Valley. Go figure!

And strangely, a small part of Washington Park has actually been retained by Zillow as part of Madison Park. Zillow’s old border between Madison Park and Denny-Blaine was E. Prospect Street, from Hillside Drive E. straight across to the Lake Washington shoreline. As seen on the map above, Zillow’s new boundary between Madison Park and Madison Valley meanders south from E. Madison Street, running down 37th Avenue E. for a block, across East Highland Street for two blocks, up 39th Avenue E. for a block, across E. Lee Street for a block, down McGilvra Boulevard for a block, and across E. Highland Street for two blocks to the shoreline. Whew!
The end result of all this craziness is that Madison Valley is—in Zillow’s opinion-- creeping northward into Madison Park, many blocks north of where Denny-Blaine was thought to end under the old Zillow scenario. Perhaps coincidentally, Zillow has managed to preserve the Washington Park home of its current president and the boyhood home of one of its founders solidly within the boundaries of Madison Park.

And if Zillow had pushed Madison Valley even one block further north, my house would have been effectively re-districted out of what Zillow considers to be Madison Park. But I guess I won’t have to change the name of this blog to Madison Valley Blogger, since they've decided to keep me in the Park!

Redfin, another important locally based real estate website, has told me it is “likely” they will be able to make the necessary changes to their site to reflect Washington Park as an enclave of Madison Park and not a subunit of Harrison/Denny-Blaine.

We shall see!


  1. Thanks for the update on where the "experts" are telling us we live. Glad to hear you're still in the Park but you better not make Zillow mad or you'll be in Burien tomorrow. I wonder if the Tennis Club is going to change their website description to their new location in Madison Valley?

    I can just see the real estate hot shots in their boardroom staring at a map and saying: "Well Tom lives on E. Highland St. and it was his idea to make Washington Park disappear so he can live in Madison Valley and Mike lives on 37th Ave. E. and he wants to live in Madison Park so we'll move the border over here" then....

    I know it's irritating to have someone with an agenda arbitrarily moving our neighborhood's borders around especially when it appears their ultimate goal is to include us all in Madison Valley.

    For another example of Zillow's silly and nonsensical guidelines look on their map at the REAL Madison Valley where ROVER's is located. The border Zillow has for Madison Valley runs right down the middle of Madison Street thus declaring everything north of Madison to be Capitol Hill even though it's in a valley. How about some common sense; a valley is a valley and a hill is a hill.

    To these people it's not about real neighborhoods, local history and geographic obviousness; it's impersonal, it's about lines on a map. Before we know it they'll be telling us fat men fly and a duck's rear end isn't water tight.

    I think your recent series defined our area neighborhoods very well and we should leave it at that. Keep up the battle; I support your mission.

  2. Actually, a lot of it is based on fear and prejudice. I know of a young man whose parents are a "big name" in eastern Washington. He is renting a home, with roommates, at 32nd and John St. He and his parents claim this is Washington Park. I know, living in the Valley, that this is bunk - they just don't want to tell their friends that their son lives in "the valley" or "the CD" (god forbid). It's sad - their eastern WA prejudices are translating into their son. (and yes, I'm originally from "over there" and know how this works)


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