The Del Mar City Council has called for voluntary mediation in disputes between neighbors over overgrown trees and bushes but has rejected a proposal for a city ordinance requiring pruning to preserve ocean views.
The council voted to sign a contract with Mira Mesa-based Community Mediation Center, and the city will pay half of the individual tab for the first 20 cases. The city will pay the full cost of mediation for elderly homeowners.
Mediation is meant to halt over-the-fence bickering in the woodsy seaside community where shaggy greenery has become a hot political topic.
A Vegetation View Block Committee appointed by the council had recommended an ordinance empowering the city to trim or cut any tree or bush that blocks sunlight or a view of the ocean or San Dieguito Lagoon. Some homeowners have complained bitterly that view-blocking vegetation makes their homes less enjoyable and reduces resale values.
Concerned about lawsuits, the council instead voted Monday night to try voluntary non-binding mediation. It also allocated $2,000 to the effort, which will be evaluated after the 20 cases are completed.
Councilwoman Brooke Eisenberg said she hopes mediation will be helpful in most cases but is unsure whether it will help when neighbors have long been at odds.
"It is not necessarily going to solve those cases where there is a long history of acrimony and disagreement," she said.
Don Kennedy, one of the residents who brought the vegetation issue to the council, called the mediation plan "utterly toothless" and predicted that it will not solve the majority of view problems.
Kennedy, a retired actor and carpenter, has battled his neighbor for several years over the latter's view-blocking trees. Non-binding mediation, he said, "is a total waste of money."