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Two John Does come forward in case challenging Olympia’s homelessness response

Homeless mitigation site opens in downtown Olympia

Olympia's sanctioned homeless camp, also called the mitigation site, opened Dec. 10, 2018.
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Olympia's sanctioned homeless camp, also called the mitigation site, opened Dec. 10, 2018.

Two of the anonymous plaintiffs in a case challenging the city of Olympia’s response to homelessness have been identified after a judge denied a request from one of them to continue under the name John Doe.

Zeigler’s Welding Inc. on Capitol Way North and Dan Brathovd, owner of the Aztec Lanes bowling alley on Martin Way East now are identified in court documents. They join Douglas Heay, who owns property next to a city-run homeless camp downtown and was the only named plaintiff when the case was filed in December.

Back then, several business owners went to court as John Does to try to stop the opening of that camp, known as the mitigation site. They argued the city did not follow its own ordinance regulating such a facility, that city policies on homelessness created a public nuisance, and that opening the mitigation site would only add to the problem.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued a temporary restraining order but later allowed the mitigation site to open as planned.

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In April, Dixon ruled Brathovd’s appeal of that decision could not go forward under the name John Doe. Following that decision, all the other John Does dropped out.

Their lawyer, Jon Cushman, told The Olympian that was out of fear of retaliation from activists and the city.

Both sides were back in court Friday, where Dixon denied the city’s motion to dismiss Brathovd’s nuisance claims without prejudice.

The city’s lawyer had argued Brathovd’s business and property are not near the mitigation site, which is what this case was about, and that unsanctioned camps near Aztec Lanes are on private property, not city-owned property.

But Cushman argued that at issue are city policies related to homelessness that he said have made Olympia a “homeless mecca” and hurt Brathovd’s business.

As for the camps on private property, he said the city is allowing them to remain.

“The city could shut that down tomorrow, I don’t care if it’s on city property or not,” Cushman said after the hearing.

Follow more of our reporting on Homelessness in Thurston County

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