Why there's no official map of Seattle neighborhoods 🏙

Walking down the street in the International District. Or is it the Chinatown-International District? Thanks for tagging #theevergrey. Bryan!


You hear it all the time: “Seattle is a city of neighborhoods.” And it’s true. To a lot of us locals, our neighborhoods aren’t just shapes on a map. They’re part of our identity.

But sometimes, it’s not clear how each neighborhood identity should apply. Is it called the Central District or the Central Area? The International District or the Chinatown-International District? Lower Queen Anne or Uptown? Does the Central District (or Central Area!) border Atlantic and Squire Park or does it include Atlantic and Squire Park? And if you say you live in Stevens, Mann, or Morningside, will enough people even know what you’re talking about?

“It’s organic,” Kathy Nyland told us. “It’s totally organic.”

Kathy heads up the Department of Neighborhoods, which is not, as you might expect, the ultimate authority on all these questions. She had a bunch of Seattle maps laid out in her office in City Hall when we stopped by yesterday — each with its own interpretation of neighborhood names and boundaries — and she couldn’t pick a favorite. There is no ultimate authority on all this, and to her, there probably shouldn’t be. Different communities need freedom and flexibility to relate to their neighborhoods in whatever ways they want.

“When people have pride in it,” she said, “I want to honor that.”

Here are four quick things we learned:

» There is no current official neighborhood map of Seattle. Some more or less official boundaries were set after neighborhood planning in the 90s, but even those had literal grey areas planners weren’t sure about.

» People can advocate for a certain neighborhood name — and it’s worked. Kathy shared the story of Denise Gloster, who spent years boosting Hillman City in South Seattle, and Susan Pierce, who’s been promoting West Woodland in Ballard.

» Google Maps does not work with the city to tweak neighborhood labels. And Kathy has no idea how Google selects the names it displays. “I’ve never asked, and I don’t know how it’s happening,” she said. “It’s amazing the little things that pop up and the big things that disappear.”

» Neighborhood names can shift and stick based on all kinds of things, including history, the name of a local school, real estate listing trends, what neighborhood organizations choose to call themselves, what local businesses choose to call themselves, and — yes — gentrification.

For more on all this, check out this clip from our conversation with Kathy, and the thread where several of you asked your questions. We’ve added more answers and context there.

As for Google Maps, we’re curious about how they label neighborhoods in our city. Know someone in the Fremont or Kirkland offices who’d be up for shedding light on that? Hit reply or email us at [email protected].

And keep your questions coming. About everything. 🔎

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Et tu, Boston? Amazon’s looking for as much as 1 million square feet of office space in Boston, which to many people can only mean one thing: It’s ready to call Beantown its big second headquarters. But not so fast: About 1,000 Bostonians already work for Amazon, Amazon was already planning to grow its presence there, and the company has given itself through the end of this year to pick a spot for its so-called HQ2. Still. Who doesn’t love to speculate? (The Boston Globe)

Traffic will get better this November. Or weirder. We’ll see! In any case, that’s the month the new downtown tunnel should be ready for drivers. It’s going to be our new Highway 99, replacing our old old Alaskan Way Viaduct as one of the main North-South paths through the city. One curveball: The new tunnel won’t have any downtown exits, like Highway 99 currently does. And that could get…interesting. (The Seattle Times)

Here comes the Women’s March 2.0. It’s been almost a year since 120,000+ people joined Seattle’s Women’s March in what might have been the biggest march the city’s ever seen. The sequel, Women’s March 2.0, is planned for Saturday, January 20. Though 37,000 people have said they’re “interested” on Facebook, no one’s really sure what the turnout will be. “You could expect an increase in apathy and a loss of urgency,” wrote Justin Carder in Capitol Hill Seattle. “Or, maybe, with the #metoo movement people are more inspired to act.” (Capitol Hill Seattle)

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Partner Events

🎙️ Jan. 20: Comm Lead Connects: Communication Solutions for Challenges of Our Time

🏙 Feb. 2-3: Crosscut Festival (Psst — Evergrey readers get 25% off!)

Around Town


💃  Learn global dances (Hillman City)
☮️  Apply MLK’s vision to today’s issues (Capitol Hill)
👽  Nerd out at this convention (SeaTac)


🚂  Check out these model trains (Queen Anne)
🐠  Take the fam to Hawaii Weekend (Downtown)
🎵  Celebrate the ladies of rap (Capitol Hill)


🌮  Feast on Seattle street food (Fremont)
🚸  Take 6th-12th graders to an MLK Day workshop (First Hill)
🍽  Connect with fellow black folks over dinner (Central District)

Going to one of these?

Send us a pic or tag #theevergrey and tell us how it went. See more upcoming events (and submit your own) on our events page.


We’ve intro’d you to some interesting people (and pups!) these last few days. Check out the clips of…

» KEXP director Tom Mara in twinkling lights
» Author and blogger Geraldine DeRuiter in the presence of pastries
» Interviewer Warren Etheredge in a hip Pioneer Square sports bar
» Resident bar dog Steven in his favorite Lake City brewery

And of course…

» Department of Neighborhoods director Kathy Nyland surrounded by maps

Know an awesome Seattleite your fellow readers should meet? Hit reply or send us a note at [email protected].

We’ll see you Monday. — The Evergrey

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