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CITY SMART: How to thrive in the urban environment of Southern California. : MAKING IT HAPPEN : Agencies Help Neighbors Keep the Peace


How do you deal with a neighbor whose dog barks all night long? Encourage teen-agers next door to turn the volume down on their stereos? Stop neighbors from parking their RV in front of your house?

There are ways to resolve such differences without going to court.

City and county departments, including law enforcement officers, handle the most common neighborhood complaints: litter, abandoned cars, zoning violations and planning enforcement. Call your city council or supervisorial district office for help. The phone numbers are listed in your phone book. To file a complaint, you can call the offices directly.

Sometimes settling a dispute with a neighbor is simply a question of asking nicely. Other times, it is necessary to call in some outside assistance. An often effective alternative is the use of Voluntary Mediation Service, a county program to help people resolve conflicts.

More than 40 trained volunteers based in the San Pedro Service Center mediate everything from divorce settlements to disputes over barking dogs or a neighbor refusing to cut down trees that are obscuring a view. Funds for the program come from a reserve collected from civil court filing fees. Referrals to the program come from the courts, law enforcement agencies and city officials. But anyone can call for an appointment to settle a dispute. Mediators also refer people to similar services in other areas.

Mediation services are offered at no charge, and the meetings are confidential.

The mediation services can be reached at (310) 519-6248.

Here are some other agencies that provide alternative dispute resolution services. Fees vary according to income level.

* Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center. (213) 747-9943.

* Los Angeles City Attorney's Dispute Resolution Center. (213) 485-8324.

* Los Angeles County Bar Assn.'s Dispute Resolution Services. (213) 896-6533.

* Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs Dispute Settlement Service. (213) 974-0825.

* Martin Luther King Dispute Resolution Center. (213) 295-8582.

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