Posted November 1, 2012 by Cooper Point Journal in News

The Gnomestead: A Public Nuisance?

A History

The Olympia Gnomestead House, filled with radicalism, music, and community, has housed an ever-evolving congregation of students and drifters alike for over a decade.

A former Evergreen professor previously owned the house and rented its’ rooms out to Greeners and other community members. Until three years ago, there were little to no complaints or issues involving the Gnomestead. However, in the recent past, neighbors surrounding the Gnomestead have begun to complain about various problems, leading to the house being classified as a public nuisance by the city of Olympia. In effect, the future of this communal house is uncertain.

Crazy Parties

Most of the complaints from neighbors were not specifically about the Gnomestead residents themselves, but rather about large parties held at the house. These parties frequently escalated to a level that disturbed neighboring residents. One neighbor commented, “They would say they’re having a small party, and it would end up being huge.”

Many Evergreen students and other Olympia residents appreciate the atmosphere and live music at Gnomestead parties. This combined with advertising around campus caused more people to come to these events. At a certain point though, the parties became loud enough that multiple people in the neighborhood would either complain to the residents directly or call the police.

A resident nearby remarked on the noise during parties: “I know this isn’t the middle of town, but it is in city limits, and we deserve our peace, too.” Other complaints by neighbors have included large amounts of trash outside the house as well as stolen and damaged property. Also, bonfires were started in the backyard of the Gnomestead this past summer during the statewide burn ban.

Again, many of the issues that concerned neighbors occurred during parties with dozens of people at them and the surrounding residents do not put the actual occupants of the house completely at fault. However, because of complaints received about parties and the many times police became involved at the Gnomestead, the city declared the house a public nuisance.

A ‘Public Nuisance’

According to Olympia law 8.24.010, a public nuisance is defined as someone or something that either “unreasonably injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others” or “offends public decency.” There are specific items in state law 8.24.020 that further explains reasons for declaring a property a public nuisance.

Some of the reasons that may have lead to the Gnomestead being classified this way include buildup of garbage outside, loud and raucous noise, disorderly conduct, and property damage or vandalism.

Because the city declared the Gnomestead a public nuisance, the landlord of the house was forced to evict the residents. He announced that the lease would be cancelled as of November 1. Residents and visitors to the Gnomestead were so disappointed that the communal house would be shut down for business that they hosted an eviction party advertised by flyers around campus.

Community House

One of the residents of the house, Yahcob, expressed his passion for the Gnomestead and its tight-knit community, “I go out to be alone, and I go home to socialize.”

The Gnomestead serves as a venue for local bands to perform for Evergreen students and other Olympians. Residents of the house and frequent visitors view the Gnomestead as a very important part of Olympia’s social and political scene.

Yahcob commented on how police and state action against the house is “glossing over the things that make Olympia, Olympia… [such as] house shows and radical politics.” After being labeled as a nuisance by the city and losing their lease, the residents of the Gnomestead began to plan for the future.

Future of the Gnomestead

When eviction was in their midst, residents began discussing future plans of the Gnomestead. One idea was to create a “Gnomestead 2” at another location. The residents were adamant about upholding the legacy of the Gnomestead in Olympia.

However, as of recently, a new lease with the current residents is in the works. Although the neighbors of the Gnomestead might not be happy about the legacy of the house continuing, the residents and visitors have expressed relief that there is a new lease on the radar.

By Hunter Paulson-Smith

Disclaimer: Due to the sensitive subject matter of this issue, names of involved parties have been left out or changed to protect their identities and safety.