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Peace Blotter is a sampling of neighborhood disputes recently mediated by Community Boards, a Mission District nonprofit offering no- and low-cost mediation services. Now in its 33rd year, Community Boards gives those who are having a conflict a way to discuss their problems and craft their own solutions.
For information about the organization, log on to www.communityboards.org or call 415-920-3820. In the disputes described below, the names of the parties have been changed to protect their privacy.
When Two Lives Collide
Willie Hearst and Marion Davies were tenants in a small apartment building. Marion lived in the unit above Willie, and they both shared storage space in the garage. Marion complained to Willie (and to the landlord) about Willie's moving her personal property in the garage, but Willie never responded. In turn, Willie complained that Marion made too much noise. Things came to a head when the two tenants had a semi-physical confrontation outside the garage.
Resolution: Willie and Marion agreed to clearly designate with paint and labels their areas in the garage. Marion also agreed to purchase area rugs to minimize the noise.
Wall Gets Painted
Fred and Barney owned homes adjacent to one another. The west wall of Fred's garage sat directly on the property line. When Fred wanted to paint the garage, Barney refused to allow Fred access to his yard to paint the west wall. He threatened to call the police if Fred trespassed.
Resolution: During the mediation, Barney accused Fred of reporting him to the Planning Department when he had been doing some minor building construction several years earlier. Fred said that he hadn't done that. After airing their mutual grievances, they decided to call a truce and allow Fred to paint the west wall of his garage.
Battle Over Truck
Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee lived directly across the street from each other. Ulysses owned a small construction business, and in the evenings he parked his truck where he could see it from his front window. This meant that Robert, who owned and lived in his home for over 20 years, also saw the truck, which he described as "dirty and ugly." On the nights when Ulysses illegally parked his truck, usually across the sidewalk, Robert would call DPT to ticket the truck. Things between them finally exploded into an incident that involved the police.
Resolution: Ulysses wanted to make sure his truck was safe from theft or vandalism. Robert said he knew someone with a nearby vacant garage for rent. Ulysses agreed he would contact this person in order to secure his truck safely overnight.
The Party's Over
Cher said that Cyndi intentionally scratched her parked car several days after she had called the police about a loud party with drunken behavior at Cyndi's. A police report was filed, and Cyndi was cited by the police, with a trial pending. Cyndi said she was innocent, but that her boyfriend might have done the vandalism. Cher said it would cost $1,200 to repair the damage.
Resolution: Cyndi agreed to pay Cher $900, while Cher agreed to drop the charges and any other legal action.
Praying for Quiet
Confucius ran a small religious retreat for members of his temple in his home. His neighbor, Ralph Kramden, complained about the music and chanting that occurred, particularly a new year's celebration that began at dawn and lasted five days.
Resolution: Confucius agreed to install soundproofing, mute the drum-playing, and begin the services later in the morning rather than at dawn. Ralph said he would monitor these changes and speak directly with Confucius about any issues.
Park Here, Please
Bob Cratchit, an elderly man on a fixed income, found himself incontinent due to his cancer treatment. Needing to drive to run even short errands, he would sometimes illegally park on the sidewalk in front of Ebenezer Scrooge's house in his rush to use his bathroom. Ebenezer belligerently complained and kept reporting him to the authorities. Bob was issued over $400 in parking fines, and felt that Ebenezer was harassing and threatening him.
Resolution: After Bob explained his medical condition during their mediation, Ebenezer let him park in his driveway if needed, paid half of the parking fines, and offered to help with future errands.
Landlord, Tenant Meet Halfway
Jerry has lived in his apartment building for almost 10 years. Last year, the building was sold to Kramer. Jerry felt that Kramer was not a good landlord. He reduced regular maintenance, such as vacuuming the hallways and removing trash from the common areas. When Kramer was slow in replacing Jerry's broken refrigerator, Jerry withheld part of his rent. Kramer then served him with an eviction notice.
Resolution: During their mediation, Kramer explained that he had reduced services because his cash flow was lower due to his investment in the building. He rescinded the eviction notice and promised to improve the quality of Jerry's service. Jerry, in turn, paid Kramer the overdue balance of his rent.
Customer Often Right
Margaret Dumont took some of her suits to Marx's Dry Cleaners. She picked them up and hung them in her closet with the plastic bags still on them. Several weeks later, she discovered a suit jacket was damaged, with one button missing and another one crushed. She took it back to Marx's to complain. The owner denied having damaged them, and wondered why it took her so long to complain.
Resolution: During their mediation, Mr. Marx agreed to replace all the buttons on the coat and extended an offer to not charge Ms. Dumont for her next order.
This month's Peace Blotter was contributed by Jim Garrison of Community Boards.