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Local Community Boards organization uses mediation to resolve disputes
Illustration Mike Reger

Located right in the middle of the Mission District for 35 years is Community Boards. We all know of someone that has been in conflicts with their neighborhoods, roommates, landlords and sometimes-family members about his or her living situation. It can range from a minor incident such as noise to a major incident such as property. People call the police with their complaints and sometimes feel like nothing is getting resolved. Instead of becoming angry and getting a lawyer, try mediation.

“I think people more often than they know need a structured place to have a conversation,” said Charlie Spiegel, an attorney mediator that has been volunteering with Community Boards since 2005. “The structure helps people; they don’t feel like it’s a pointless conversation. It enables people to make progress.”

A volunteer mediator, not a lawyer, deals with your complaints. The volunteers all enter into a 40-hour mediator training process and during that process they learn how to deal with different issues. The volunteers and staff learn valuable skills that they can transfer from one part of their life to another.

“I get to practice what I learn in my conflict resolution class at San Francisco State,” said Esmeralda Xochiti Flores, an intern and Graduate Student at San Francisco State University.

James Dowling, a volunteer since 2005 and Life Coach, say his best days as a mediator are when he feels like he is a part of a team. Being a mediator has helped him understand that sometimes people are just angry and with efficient communication the problem can be heard and possibly solved.

“People are just trying to protect themselves and keep their head above water,” said Dowling. “I have gained more compassion for people. When I see someone on a bus or something and he or she is being a jerk, I just think they are having a bad day. I don’t know what is making them angry or bitter.”

All the volunteers at Community Boards want the community to know that they are there for them. A good mediation is something they all want. When that happens, the staff and volunteers can feel the difference.

“You can feel the energy of the room,” said Mediation Program Manager Liora Kahn. “There is laughter coming out of the room, and people are shaking hands after a great mediation. There is a general feeling of well-being coming out of the room. It makes our work very much worthwhile.”

Before you call the cops again, or yell at your neighbors, try mediation. Have your voice be heard.

Story by: Nicole Moreno