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The Age of Obama is about diplomacy, right? So it seems a perfect time to do a "Peace Blotter," showing how neighborhood conflicts can be resolved without threats, litigation, or a call to police. To that end, the Voice asked Community Boards, a San Francisco nonprofit offering no- and low-cost mediation services since 1976, to provide us with a sampling of recent cases in and around Noe Valley. The log that CB sent back covers a variety of disputes, several occurring over fences. Names have been changed by CB's staff, to protect the innocent and respect confidentiality. Though it used to be on Valencia, Community Boards is now located at 3130 24th Street between Shotwell and Folsom. To find out more about its conflict-resolution and other programs, visit www.communityboards.org or call 920-3820.
CASES FROM THE FILES OF
Monica L. lives above Paolo J. in a tenancy-in-common. She received complaints about making too much noise from him. Paolo felt her responses were inadequate and would play loud music to drown out her noise. Resolution: Monica will reduce noise by hiring an acoustical engineer, and she and Paolo will share the expense. They both agreed to act in good faith, communicate via e-mail, and respond in a timely fashion.
Gregory M. and Eliot P. casually knew each other prior to beginning their joint film project. Conflicts slowly began to surface due to their different "creative" styles. Work on the project eventually stalled because of a complete communications breakdown. Resolution: Gregory and Eliot created a timeline for completing the project and a financial plan for sharing both current costs and any future revenue.
The Clarksons and Kirps are adjacent homeowners who have had an ongoing dispute over their shared property line and fence placement. Resolution: Both families agreed to share the expense of hiring a surveyor and to abide by the surveyor's results.
Jim G. created an innovative medical rehabilitation program for cancer patients, hiring Gail S., a longtime friend, to assist him. Communication problems arose and worsened, straining both the work relationship and their friendship. Jim was close to terminating Gail, but feared losing a good friend. Resolution: Jim and Gail agreed to separate the work relationship from the friendship by formalizing performance reviews in an office setting, keeping them focused on the program and minimizing any personal conversation, which they would save for more appropriate social settings.
Tanya L., an elderly, long-term homeowner, believed that her fence was being damaged by a tree in an adjoining yard. It had grown to where it pressed against the fence. Roger Q., the absentee landlord of the property where the tree grew, felt that the fence's disrepair was due to its age. Resolution: Roger had the tree professionally pruned, and both he and Tanya agreed to share the cost of repairing the fence.
Yu-Yee W. and Winson F., a divorced couple, had issues involving visitation of their children, who now live with Yu-Yee and her new husband. Resolution: Yu-Yee and Winson agreed to have scheduled, structured visits and to modify their behavior while in the presence of the children. Yu-Yee also agreed to seek anger-management support. They both agreed to revisit this arrangement in three months and revise the terms if needed.
Ray M. lent his car to his cousin, John M., who was involved in an accident with a Golden Gate cab. Golden Gate's insurer refused to pay for repairs because neither driver had filed a police report, which would have indicated who was at fault. The mediation included Ray, John, the taxi driver, and an insurance representative. Resolution: The insurance company decided to pay for the majority of the repairs, with Ray and John sharing the remaining cost.
Consuelo H., the landlord for Teresita J., wanted her tenant to vacate her property. Teresita had agreed to move out before, but continued to occupy the unit. Tensions had escalated to the point where both had sought restraining orders against the other. Both had also acquired legal counsel and were moving toward the lengthy eviction process. Resolution: Parties created a nine-step action plan that allowed Consuelo to secure her property and Teresita to vacate with a positive reference from the landlord.
Two adjacent property owners, the Longs and the Garrisons, shared the expense of building a cinderblock wall between their properties many years ago. At the same time, the Garrisons topped the wall with a wooden fence. The Garrisons recently removed the fence due to the wall's aging, and did not replace it. They also have two large dogs that the Longs fear might jump the cinderblocks. Resolution: The Longs will replace some damaged cinderblocks (which is why the Garrisons pulled the wooden fence down), and the Garrisons will replace the wooden fence. They determined the height of the new fence to address the Longs' concern about the dogs.