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California

‘Flintstone House’ owner strikes back, cites racial discrimination over yard decorations

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A menagerie stands guard at the “Flintstone House” in Hillsborough, Calif. Three dinosaurs, a giraffe and a mastodon appeared recently near the home that sold in 2017 for $2.8 million.
(Karl Mondon / Mercury News)

A Northern California homeowner made it clear this week that it’s going to take more than a lawsuit to force the prehistoric menagerie of animals outside her property into extinction.

With its boulder-like architectural design and orange and purple paint, Florence Fang’s home at 45 Berryessa Way in Hillsborough, Calif. — better known as the “Flintstone House” for its resemblance to the Stone Age family’s abode in the cartoon town of Bedrock — has raised a few eyebrows among local residents over the years.

Hillsborough town officials called it a “highly visible eyesore” when they filed a lawsuit in March asking a San Mateo County judge to declare the famed property a public nuisance and order Fang to remove a collection of metal dinosaurs and other animals, along with additional decorative accouterments, from her property.

But Fang isn’t going down without a fight.

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On Wednesday, the former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner struck back in her own legal filing, alleging that town officials discriminated against her because of her race, actively worked to deny her right to build on her property and wrongly enforced town building codes she claims do not apply to her home.

The lawsuit alleges Hillsborough has a “practice of discrimination against property owners who are not Caucasians, specifically Asians, such as Mrs. Fang.”

Hillsborough’s Assistant City Atty. Mark Hudak said the claim is “completely baseless.”

“Mrs. Fang’s claim that she is the victim of housing discrimination and that there’s a policy of discrimination against Asians is ridiculous,” he said. “Our staff members treat everyone with respect, and we are open to all cultures and all points of view at Town Hall.

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“This cross complaint is meant to divert attention from the core fact that Mrs. Fang installed a very large project without getting permits, and blaming our enforcement staff isn’t going to change what she did.”

Fang purchased the property for $2.8 million in 2017 and soon after began redesigning the backyard with brightly colored mushrooms, a band of 15-foot dinosaurs, a giraffe, a mastodon and a sign reading “Yabba Dabba Doo.”

Officials contend those items were constructed without the necessary approvals and permits.

Fang argues in her filing that town officials had her home in their crosshairs from the very beginning and even suggested that she tear down the home shortly after she purchased it. Her attorney, Angela Alioto, said the ordinances Fang is accused of violating are unconstitutional because officials applied them to her client differently.

“While she’s working with them, jumping through every hoop they ask her to, they sue her,” Alioto said. “She’s been treated horribly. The harassment has been overwhelming.”

Hillsborough issued a building permit in November 2017 that allowed Fang to build a 2-foot-high retaining wall on the property. However, when officials inspected the property, they found extensive landscaping in the backyard, a new deck and a different retaining wall. Those changes fell outside the scope of the original permit, according to the city’s complaint filed in court.

Fang contends that the landscaped portion of her property does not meet the size requirement necessary for permits. She also alleges a city official found the statues when he entered her backyard without her permission.

She said she has tried to work with city officials, and even planted trees in front of the dinosaurs in “a gesture of cooperation.” After the plants were in the ground, the city told her they were too small.

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“Every single time that Mrs. Fang attempted to do as she was instructed, the Town moved the goalpost even further,” the lawsuit states.

The city sent three notices from December 2017 through August ordering that Fang stop altering the property, but officials said those requests were ignored.

An administrative hearing panel said the unapproved landscape decorations needed to be removed by December and levied a $200 fine for the violation. Fang paid the citation, but did not remove the decorations, according to the city’s complaint.

“They are 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,” the panel wrote in its decision.

The eccentrically designed home nestled into a hillside overlooking the Crystal Springs Reservoir has its critics, but it also has some fans. Tourists and travelers who spot the property from Highway 280 often stop to take photos and share the wonderment of the house on social media.

The multi-domed structure was designed in 1976 by Bay Area architect William Nicholson as an experiment in new materials. During the 1980s, the residence was called the Barbapapa House after the children’s books of that name and a subsequent cartoon show.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

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Twitter: @Hannahnfry


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