Monday, November 14, 2011

Madison Park: wealthy as charged

The proposal to take down the fence at so-called (by the City and no one else) Madison Park North Beach has drawn an unusual amount of media attention to our fair neighborhood in recent weeks. KING-TV, KOMO-TV and KIRO-TV have each run news stories on the subject, as have other news purveyors. Some of the coverage in the major media and blogosphere has focused on the apparent class conflict between those "upscale" Madison Parkers who wish to preserve the waterfront park as it is and certain out-of-the-neighborhood members of the public who say they want direct access to the water at 43rd Avenue E. and E. Lynn Street.

In its coverage of the issue, referred to Madison Park as "tidy and affluent," while the Seattle Times settled on "wealthy" as its descriptor for the neighborhood. We were intrigued by the fact that The Times was able to quantify the wealth aspect, noting that "Madison Park is one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, with an average income of $161,000, according to census data."

We decided to check into this.  For one thing, is the number for real? And if accurate, is it meaningful?  After all, average income is probably not the best way to look at a neighborhood's affluence. Here's a simplistic example that helps explain why: suppose ten minimum-wage workers live on a residential block, along with one multi-millionaire. This combination would presumably result in a pretty high average income for that block, since you would divide the sum of the annual incomes of everyone on the block by eleven to get the average--which would be high, even though most of the block's population actually lived in poverty.

This is not a third-world neighborhood, so income disparities for Madison Park would hardly be in line with our example. But it is well known that we have quite a few millionaires (and perhaps a billionaire) living in our midst, and these high-income individuals could certainly throw off the average income calculation for the community as a whole.  Having looked into the matter, we can report that while the neighborhood is definitely wealthy, the situation is more nuanced than was evident in the Seattle Times story.

First, to give the paper its due, its average income calculation for Madison Park is essentially correct (there appears to be a typo, however).  The U.S. Census reports that Census Tract 63 (Madison Park, including its Broadmoor and Washington Park enclaves) has average income of $151,000, based on surveys undertaken for the period 2005-2009.

The U.S. Census also reports, however, that the median income for the 2,871 households in Madison Park is only $76,042.  We'd argue that this is a more representative way of looking at the affluence of the community.  The median income number is the halfway point between the bottom 50% of households and the top 50%.  The City's demographer, Diana Canzoneri, agrees that median income is the typical approach used when looking at income levels across population units.

Here's a look at how income is distributed in Madison Park, according to the Census estimates:

Almost one third of Madison Park households earns less than $50,000 per year while another third earns $125,000 or more.  This is a much broader variation in income levels than might be suspected if one simply looks at the $151,000 average income number for the Park, which is obviously skewed by some very high income earners.  Even so, it presents a much different picture from than that of Seattle as a whole:

A Madison Park household is almost twice as likely to have annual income of $125,000 or more than a Seattle household is.  And when you get to the $200,000 income level and above (which is the highest category surveyed), the difference is even more striking:

That's right, more than one fifth of Madison Park households, according to the U.S. Census, have annual income at or above $200,000.

So yes, whatever way you look at it, Madison Park is definitely wealthy. But by no means is everyone who lives here in that category.


  1. As homeowners in Madison Park, we also pay a lot more in taxes around the entire area because of the house values of some of those millionaires, even if we live in an average house or small bungalow. We pay more taxes, yet the Police are too over-worked in other neighborhoods (where a majority pay no taxes), to respond to Madison and Washington Park when needed, a lot of the time. It is a fact that crime and problems escalate in the summer due to all of the beach and neighborhood visitors. Removing this fence is going to create even more issues and overcrowding. I do not think it is too much to ask, to be able to park your car in front of your own house on a summer day. We share our neighborhood plenty, but do think it is our right to be able to keep a nice quiet park the way it is. It is enjoyed for what it is now, by many residents and visitors on a daily basis and most neighborhoods have something similar. The bottom line is that the area cannot handle any more congestion and crime then we already deal with in the warm weather.

  2. Once again after reading that Mad Park is a wealthy community, we get a diatribe from a resident about taxes, how much Poorly Treated (if not really poor) Madison Park residents have to pay more taxes while the police are busy elsewhere etc etc. This really makes me want to throw up! 'we share our neighborhood plenty' What kind of comment is that? We live in Seattle and the fenced park is part of Seattle and does not belong to Madison Park to share. This smug BS attitude is what gives the Mad Park wealthy such a bad name. Tear down the fence! And maybe if we are lucky, some of the outraged pro-fence folks will leave to go to more posh and 'protected' areas, and then we can try to build a truly friendly and welcoming neighborhood.

  3. Rich vs the poor! Bring in the Occupy Seattle bums to camp at the little park. Let's confiscate the wealth of those rich Madison Parkers and give it to the poor now (there won't be more where that came from once they take it). Build a bike path along the way! Have City Council sneak in a new tax to pay the sandy beach they want and don't tell you about now. There are rocks there now that are a risk to children and others to access the shore. All for political correctness in a city with an inferiority complex run by closet socialists. Fairness does not count with regard to these issues.

  4. I'm ready to see us put our defenses and biases away and start a "Friends of Madison Park North" effort to enlist diverse school, civic, religious, non-religious and others interested in helping to both upgrade the park without relying solely on having the city Parks & Rec. staff doing all the work.

    I've lived in a lot of the U.S., and it's great to be in the N.W. But we are more socialized than much of the nation, good or bad.

    What i've heard and seen in other parts of the nation involve such groups as those listed above to help plan and implement (meaning helping to do the dirty work) to what will make the park more scenic, not trash-bound, still respectful of its neighbors, and hopefully safe for all (yes, there will be a safety risk if the fence is removed and will be even riskier if nothing's planned to help prevent drowning).

    Ready to stoo griping and assuming all the folks living around Mad. Pk N. are "uber-rich?"* I'm tired of hearing it and willing to try helping the situation. Are you? Then respond to me and maybe we can get some traction to plan for the future. Let's do better than just having the city remove a chain-link fence. We can do so much better than that!

    BTW, i live in a condo next to Mad. Pk. N. I know neighbors in my bldg. & on the block who are not "Madison Pk. Millionaires." They include:
    - two nurse (and they don't live together)s;
    - one laborer;
    - one community college instructor; and
    - one retail apparel salesperson.

    And I don't know a lot of folks in my 'hood. But they're FAR from millionaires. And I do know a few millionaires who give a damn, too. So PLEASE, enough stereotyping.

    If interested, you can e-mail me at

  5. Interesting numbers. I appreciate seeing the under $50k represented. I live in the Park and I am very, very far from rich. I rent an apartment and have a very limited University teaching income. I consider myself to be very much a part of my neighborhood, and I'm only reminded that I'm significantly less wealthy than my neighbors when I read the numbers on the blogs and in news articles. I put a large portion of my income toward my housing, eat canned soup for dinner many nights, dress professionally, and feel that I don't come across as being riffraff when I run errands in the Park. I'm 27. And I see so many people like me all over Madison Park. We have lots of interesting individuals here and I think everyone knows that when we're actually interacting with one another rather than coming up with numbers.

  6. Friends of Madison Park North will NEVER get off of ground if the 1% who control Madison Park continue to have there way! They blew it with Friends of Madison Park and killed Historic Madison Park. Your only hope is that the don't hear about Friends of Madison Park North.

  7. Don't let these big-talk-no-action-types deter you. If you want to start a group, you should do so, and good for you for doing so. Clearly you have not been brainwashed as so many have.

    To those that believe in this 1% idea, it is getting tired and relying on it to determine your way of life is threatening to make you even more irrelevant than you already think you are.

    It is an excuse to sit on your butt and grumble about everything, after the fact. You have likely always done that, it's just that it has a name now and you are getting all of the mileage you can out of it. Regardless of who you are, there is always room for personal responsibility, leadership and action like our friend above proposes.

    It's going to take some effort, but you can go to meetings, join groups, write letters, take action and get your own house in order. If you are not doing those things, it is not the fault of the 1%, or the 99%. It is your fault. No one else's.

  8. I have it!!!!

    According to the briefing memo, the park is 42,630 SF. According to Bryan's estimates in a previous posting, waterfront public property rents for about $500/SF annually. So, for about $21m per year, the neighbors can have total control over what happens to the park. Spread around the immediate neighbors, that ought to amount to about $ 200k each.

    How much is peace and quiet worth to you?

  9. All one has to do is take a few minutes and get information about the demographics of the people who started and are part of the '99%' movement and you will see that they represent a broad spectrum of people, many ages and walks of life, including the 84 yr old woman who was pepper sprayed this week. So it is absolutely rubbish to tar people as 'socialists' and 'bums'. How about sticking the issues for a change? For instance, the fact that since the 1970s more and more has gone to the upper 1% as the 99% and even more clearly the 90% got less? The fact that the gap between rich and poor is getting greater? That this is and could continue to erode our democracy? The fact that large numbers of people are unemployed and underemployed in this country, not because they are sitting on their butts, but because jobs eg, for bridge girders, etc have been outsourced and people after looking for months can't find jobs. Fact: that when all these kind of things are happening, some people are disgusted when some entitled rich people (and yes, many of them are rich, and some of them aren't) get all bent out of shape about a fence.

  10. Right on, great posting. How important is this &^*$ "fence" given everything else going on.

    Those who want to keep things as they are with the fence should buy the property with the money they use to control Madison Park.

    Signed, the 99%

  11. Most readers won't know that you chose to illustrate your post on Madison Park wealth with an image of a house that was built three years ago and has never been sold or occupied. Interesting choice and one that shows that while people who live here may have money they are careful when spending it on houses.

  12. The safety of children and others without the fence seems to be of no concern to those who want it down. Pretty selfish and self-rightous of them. It's no wonder they think they have the right to camp in public grounds no matter what. They seem to only think about themselves.

  13. Who/what keeps your kids safe in other places where there are no fences? That exact same thing will keep them safe once there is no fence here.

    By the way, what is an appropriate description of people who think they own public land because they were foolish enough to buy property near it, while not having any control over the use of that public land? How about "selfish and self-righteous?"

    Works for me.

  14. It's obvious who is "selfish and self-righteous" from the above comments. All that matters is that it "works" for you. That's what it comes down to (the me generation).

  15. A miniscule group of people thinking that they alone should have control over something that belongs to EVERYONE is about as "ME" as it gets.

    There are about 150 people out of a neighborhood of 4,000 and a city of 600,000 trying to leverage this situation to meet their needs. Pretty selfish.

  16. Your generosity is moving. I am glad that you are willing to give up your neighborhood's character for all 600,000 of us, including risks to children, parking difficulties, and other conveniences that made you choose your area. It so happens that Madison Park already "shares" with the other 600,000 several beaches and parking areas, a lot more than other areas share. It's do as I say not as I do with the ME generation.

  17. What does removing the fence have to do with this park? Anyone is free to use this park. The fence protects ALL from getting hurt on the rocks. If the fence is removed, swimming or boating off this shore would not be allowed because it is all reef beyond the fence. It would be a risk to all, unless you use the park to sunbathe, play games, volleyball, etc.


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