CARLSBAD — The city of Carlsbad recently launched a new service called Carlsbad Mediation Services. It intends to assist neighbors who are at odds about a situation by helping them put an end to an issue and coming up with an agreement.This free assistance is meant to benefit Carlsbad residents by considering arbitration to diffuse particular situations that may arise in their neighborhoods before they escalate.
“Mediation is a confidential meeting between people who have a disagreement and a trained, neutral mediator who guides a discussion of issues toward a mutually acceptable agreement,” said Sue Irey, volunteer coordinator for the city. “Our volunteer mediators do not take sides or decide how a disagreement should be resolved.”
Irey describes the process as nonadversarial and informal, but at the same time, structured.
“The mediation process can provide a durable settlement to ongoing neighborhood issues,” she said. “We feel that good relationships between neighbors make a community stronger.”
The program officially opened its doors at the end of March. However, last summer, volunteers who wanted to take part as mediators were trained by staff members of the National Conflict Resolution Center, or NCRC. Volunteers attended 32 hours of initial training followed by 16 hours during which they covered cases with fellow mediators.
“The types of issues commonly resolved through this mediation program will involve property maintenance disputes, animal nuisance complaints, noise and neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts,” she said.
Complaints between landlords and tenants, homeowners associations and residential owners or businesses are not part of the city’s mediation guidelines.
If the mediation criteria are met after a resident calls and files a complaint, a NCRC mediator will get in touch with the disputing party to move things forward.
“The disputing parties and mediator meet at a neutral location in City Hall,” she said, adding that the process generally takes three hours or less.
After the issues are discussed, the final goal is for the parties to reach a doable agreement to sign. Neighbors leave the mediation with a copy of this agreement.
In the event a neighbor or both neighbors do not follow through with the agreement, a future mediation appointment will not be available.
“If one party does not follow through with the agreement, they would have to look for other means to settle their dispute,” she said. “A second mediation would not be an option.”
All in all, Irey said that mediation can be quite successful in helping put an end to a dispute by understanding the issues at hand. An example of this mediation success includes Spokane, Wash., where 87 percent to 92 percent cases are resolved. And eight out of 10 cases reaches an agreement in Beaverton, Ore.
“We are pleased to be offering a program that builds community resources to find resolutions and restores civility between neighbors,” she said.
Residents interested in the Carlsbad Mediation Service can call (619) 593-4530. To learn more about this service, call (760) 434-2929 or visit carlsbadca.gov/housing.