You are here

The Flintstone House, a home so odd it was declared a public nuisance

The town of Hillsborough, California, has sued its owner, a retired media mogul in her mid-80s, for creating "a highly visible eyesore" that was "out of keeping with community standards". The home's owner, Florence Fang, will fight to save it, says her grandson, Sean Fang.

San Francisco

A SMALL town in the San Francisco Bay Area is apparently unamused by improvements that one of its high-profile residents has made to a distinctive property known as the Flintstone House.

The town of Hillsborough, California, perhaps seeking to avoid becoming the next Bedrock, has sued its owner to force the removal of over-sized dinosaur statues, a sign reading "Yabba Dabba Doo" (the catchphrase of the animated television show's prehistoric patriarch, Fred Flintstone) and other landscaping, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

Nestled in a hilly community of about 11,000 people in San Mateo County, where homes routinely sell for millions, this particular residence, with its curving lines, red and purple domes, multicoloured mushrooms and scattered animal statues, has long attracted attention from neighbours (no, not the Rubbles).

Market voices on:

One could even say it is "a page right out of history". But at least in its current form, officials and some residents do not want the home, which evokes the 1960s cartoon, in their backyard.

A panel of code enforcement officials last autumn declared many recent renovations to the home to be a public nuisance, according to a town order, and have asked a judge to do the same.

The suit alleges that the homeowner did not secure the proper permits and approvals for the changes.

"It is one thing to spot this house when driving by on the freeway; you might find it amusing," said Mark Hudak, a lawyer for the town. "It is a different thing to be a neighbour and see it all day, every day."

The home's owner, retired media mogul Florence Fang - whose family once published The San Francisco Examiner and other newspapers - "will fight" to save it, her grandson Sean Fang said, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press last week. "I think the dinosaurs are beautiful," Mr Fang said in the statement. "They make everyone smile and should stay."

A person who picked up the phone at the Florence Fang Family Foundation, a nonprofit organisation, said only that Ms Fang, who is in her mid-80s, was consulting with her lawyers.

The Flintstones, which ran for six seasons, tracked the misadventures of two modern-day Stone Age families, the Flintstones and the Rubbles. A movie version starring John Goodman and Rosie O'Donnell was released in 1994.

In 1976, Bay Area architect William Nicholson built the 2,700-square-foot home using a building technique known as monolithic dome construction, according to Atlas Obscura, a publication that highlights curious places.

Over the years, the home fell into disrepair but was later renovated and then painted orange, Atlas Obscura said.

Eventually, photos show, the domes became red and purple. In 2017, Ms Fang bought the home for US$2.8 million after about two years on the market, according to various reports.

Rather than cherry trees or a vineyard, she installed 15-foot dinosaur statues as well as a giant metal woolly mammoth and giraffe; a garden of colorful, oversize mushrooms; and a rainbow and peacock sculpture, according to The Mercury News, of San Jose, last year.

For decades, drivers crossing an area bridge had marvelled at the home, on Berryessa Way, and Ms Fang told the newspaper last March that she had been one of them.

"Before, passing by, I always wondered who's living in that house," she told the newspaper. "Now I'm the one."

In the front yard she installed a life-size statue of Fred Flintstone, a smaller statue of his pet dinosaur, Dino, and much more, the newspaper reported. She also made other modifications to the property, like adding a retaining wall, steps, gates and a parking strip, which the complaint, filed on March 13, says create "life-safety hazards".

The complaint alleges that Ms Fang kept working on her home despite being issued three notices telling her to stop and failing to procure various approvals and building permits. As a result, she was cited for multiple violations of the town's municipal code, according to the lawsuit.

After the hearing in October at which the home was declared a "public nuisance", Ms Fang was fined US$200 for creating what officials called "a highly visible eyesore" that was "out of keeping with community standards", according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that she paid the citation fee but has not met any of the other requirements of the town's order. As a result, the town has sued to force her to comply.

The "large figurines" she installed are so tall, they are "classified as unenclosed structures", which require a permit, according to the order, handed down by the town's administrative hearing panel in October.

The order notes the "dense population" of dinosaurs, mushrooms and animals positioned in the back and front yards, and refers to one of Ms Fang's neighbours, who, according to the document, "stated that the landscaping appeared to be outside the norms".

"The panel cannot support a project that proceeds on a 'build first, ask for permission later' basis," the order said.

Ms Fang's improvements, the panel added, were "designed to be very intrusive, resulting in the owner's 'vision' for her property being imposed on many other properties and views, without regard to the desires of other residents".

And that, Mr Hudak, the lawyer for Hillsborough, said, "is the heart of the problem". Ms Fang, he said, "has imposed her vision for this property on the entire community, without going through the permitting process that would have allowed public input." NYTIMES