So What Dallas Neighborhood Do I Live In?

One version of Building Community workshop's map of Dallas neighborhoods.
One version of Building Community workshop’s map of Dallas neighborhoods.

Todd Robberson makes a good point over on the DMN Opinion blog. He doesn’t care for the way that the big map on the front page of today’s newspaper (accompanying the story about home price increases) classifies the neighborhoods of Dallas.

It’s not actually the Morning News that’s responsible for drawing these lines. They’re taken from North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (which D Magazine also often relies on for market data). Robberson writes:

Whatever the rationale, the map appears to lump together disparate neighborhoods in ways that could give a badly distorted picture of actual real estate value fluctuations. A dramatic increase in property values in, say, Lakewood, in no way should be associated with property values in South Dallas. But on this map, it’s all one big area.

This goes to the heart of something I’ve written about before. When real estate councils or associations take it upon themselves to attach labels to neighborhoods or districts, they have an obligation to do it as accurately as possible. You don’t just throw a name out there and hope it sticks.

The inaccurate use of labels is what leads to big mistakes, such as references to crimes in Pleasant Grove that actually occurred in Pleasant Mound, or the placement of Paul Quinn College (South Oak Cliff) in South Dallas/Fair Park.

Not long ago I saw a real estate ad for a place around the corner from my home that referred to my neighborhood as SOHIP, as in SOuth of HIghland Park. I’ve lived there seven years, and it was the first time I’d encountered that term. Since it was no doubt invented by a real estate agent, I didn’t take it seriously.

I tell people I live in Oak Lawn, even though on our own D Magazine map (which is only meant as a way to classify the placement of restaurants and shops and the like, not to define neighborhoods) I’m said to be in the Park Cities. Since I’m not within the boundaries of Highland Park ISD, I couldn’t truthfully say that.

Robberson recommends we use the map created by the nonprofit Building Community Workshop when we refer to neighborhoods. That’s a really great map. It says I’m a resident of North Oak Lawn, which sounds right to me. But its definitions are far too specific to be of much use in mapping the real estate market. It makes sense that NTREIS uses much larger areas. It’s just seems like it should be using more smartly defined areas too.