12.45.030 Procedures.

A.    The procedures described in this section shall be followed in the resolution of tree disputes between private parties.

1.    Initial reconciliation: A complaining party who believes in good faith that the growth, maintenance or location of tree(s) on the private property of another (hereinafter referred to as tree owner) diminishes the beneficial use of economic value of their property because such tree(s) interfere with the access to sunlight or views which existed prior to such growth, maintenance or location of the tree(s) on the property during the time the complaining party has occupied the property, shall notify the tree owner in writing of such concerns. The notification should, if possible, be accomplished by personal discussions to enable the complaining party and tree owner to attempt to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

2.    Mediation: If the initial reconciliation attempt fails, the complaining party shall propose mediation as a means to settle the dispute on a relatively informal basis. Acceptance of mediation by the tree owner shall be voluntary. If mediation is elected, the parties shall mutually agree upon a tree mediator.

The mediation meeting may be informal, and no written record is necessary unless desired by the parties. The mediation process may include the hearing of viewpoints of lay or expert witnesses, and shall include a site visit to the properties of the complaining party and the tree owner. Parties should be encouraged to give notice to immediate neighbors and solicit input. The tree mediator shall consider the objectives, benefits and burdens set forth in this chapter in attempting to help both parties reach a resolution of the dispute. The tree mediator shall not have the power to issue binding orders for restorative action, but shall strive to enable the parties to resolve their dispute at this stage in order to eliminate the need for binding arbitration or litigation.

3.    Tree claim preparation: In the event that the initial reconciliation process fails and mediation either is not elected or fails, the complaining party must prepare a tree claim (as defined in 12.45.020) and provide a copy to the tree owner, in order to pursue either binding arbitration or litigation. This constitutes a filing of a tree claim.

4.    Binding arbitration: In those cases where the initial reconciliation process fails and where mediation has not resolved the dispute, the complaining party must offer to submit the dispute to binding arbitration and the tree owner may elect binding arbitration. The identity of the tree arbitrator shall be agreed upon by both the complaining party and the tree owner who shall indicate such agreement in writing. This agreement may provide for employment of experts representing the parties or may be limited to an investigation of the tree claim conducted by the tree arbitrator. The tree arbitrator shall follow the provisions of this chapter to reach a fair resolution of the tree claim and shall submit a complete written report to the complaining party and the tree owner. This report shall include the tree arbitrator’s findings with respect to all standards listed in Section 12.45.040 (Standards) of this chapter, a pertinent list of all mandated restorative actions with any appropriate conditions concerning such actions including a schedule by which mandates must be completed. Such actions must be completed with due regard for the health of the tree. A copy of the arbitrator’s report shall be filed with the City Clerk.

5.    Litigation: In those cases where initial reconciliation fails and binding arbitration is not elected, civil action may be pursued by the complaining party for resolution of the sunlight access or view tree claim under the provisions of this chapter. The litigant must state in the lawsuit that arbitration was offered and not accepted, and that a copy of the lawsuit was filed with the City Clerk. A copy of any order or settlement in the lawsuit shall also be filed with the City Clerk. (Ord. 6286-NS § 1 (part), 1995: Ord. 6173-NS § 1 (part), 1993: Ord. 5817-NS § 1 (part), 1987)