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His Neighbors Complained About Parking but . . . : This Is a House of a Different Color

Times Staff Writer

Robert Miller’s neighbors saw red when he parked trucks from his business in his front yard and down one side of their quiet Costa Mesa street every night. But when they filed a complaint with the city two weeks ago, it was Miller’s turn to see red.

Miller, a resident of Governor Street for 31 years, attacked the front of his small tract home with a paintbrush--and a vengeance --last weekend. Now his neighbors are seeing magenta, periwinkle, lime green and orange, over parts of the front and east side of the Miller abode.

A winning tick-tack-toe diagram and a large face, tongue extended, adorn the stucco next to the living room window. The side of the house now inquires cryptically: “WHO CARES?”

The answer is, most of Governor Street, and Costa Mesa Mayor Norma Hertzog, too.

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“It was a vindictive thing to do, really vindictive,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified.

“They’re all afraid of retaliation,” explained Dorothy Wardle, who lives several houses down from Miller’s. “They’re afraid to say anything because of what he’s done already. He’s defacing his own property! Who knows what he’ll do next?”

Miller, 56, owner of a telephone sales and installation company in Costa Mesa, said he and several business associates had planned to paint the house gray, with blue trim, when they set out with the brushes May 21. The other colors were initially brought in only as an undercoat, he said.

“We started doing that, and a couple of comments were passed by neighbors who had made a complaint to the city (about the service trucks), and the more people made remarks, the funnier it became, and we said, ‘OK, we’ll give people something to holler about,”’ Miller said.

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New Round of Complaints

Since then, a new round of complaints from Governor Street has begun to flood City Hall.

City officials asked Miller to clear up the parking problems, but there is nothing in the codes to dictate what color, or colors, one may use to paint one’s home, Mayor Hertzog said Monday. “Sometimes neighbors decide to play games like that, and it’s too bad because it creates a lot of frustration in the neighborhood.”

“The neighborhood is very colorful with the way he has the house decorated,” Hertzog added.

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Bill Freedman, who lives across the street, agreed: “It doesn’t bother me. It bothers my wife,” he said. “As far as I know, there isn’t anything the city can do, though. Freedom of expression, isn’t that what it is?”

Julius Vasquez, Miller’s next-door neighbor for the past 19 years, said the service trucks bothered him, but as far as he’s concerned, Miller can paint his house any color he likes.

“He’s been a friend of mine for 19 years,” Vasquez said. “He’s always been pretty nice, but now, since the letter to the city (complaining about the trucks), he doesn’t want to talk to me no more. I guess our friendship of 19 years is broken up. I’m not going to talk to him till he talks to me.”

Miller said he has already begun parking the service trucks at his new company warehouse, and he plans to have the new gray paint in place--over the housefront psychedelics--within two weeks. He scoffed at neighbors’ fears about retaliation. “If I was going to be vindictive, I would have painted the whole front of the house, not just one part of it, wouldn’t I?”

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“I don’t know how this thing mushroomed into what it is,” Miller added. “I’ve lived there for 30 years. I bought the house in ’54, and I’ve never had a problem like this. I think the guy that just recently bought the house next to me instigated it . . . . I heard from one of the neighbors that, well, ‘He came around with it (the complaint) and we just signed it to keep peace.’

“I don’t think they thought they would stir up the stink that’s been stirred up.”


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