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The tiny San Francisco suburb of Hillsborough, California (population 11.5k people and three embattled dino statues) is suing octogenarian Florence Fang, former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, over the further Flintstonization of the already Bedrock-like home she bought there in 2017.
Her funky domed house, which in it's original beige color reminded nearby residents not just of the Flintstones' rock palace but also of Luke Skywalker's home on Tatooine, was built in 1976 by California architect William Nicholson. Even in the groovy 1970's the home was a retro-futuristic novelty; but it was also built as an experiment in design and construction, an attempt to create a more earthquake-proof structure in an area prone to them.
In the intervening years, subsequent owners repainted the home with it's current candy colored palette of bright purple, red and orange, which (even though the Flintstones' abode itself was a rock quarry grey) has only heightened it's cartoonish appeal. Upon her purchase of the home and it's surrounding land for $2.8 million, Fang set out to further amplify the look by adding yard decor such as giant metal dinosaur statues, a large metal giraffe and mastodon, a cavalcade of cartoonish mushrooms, a Fred Flintstone, a Dino, a spaceship with aliens, and even a Bigfoot on the terrace.
But it seems not everyone loves cartoons as much as Fang (or we at SYFY) do, for what is a sight for sore eyes to many who pass it daily on the I-280 freeway (from which the best views of the property are to be had) has instead been called an "eyesore" by the very town it graces.
A civil suit filed in California court last month claims that Fang ignored three stop-work orders and an injunction issued by the city beginning in late 2017, and also claims she lacked the permits required for installing certain elements in her yard, such as staircases and a terrace. The suit also claims that there are problems with that construction; for instance, it alleges that those same staircases are not up to code in that they lack handrails.
Fang has enlisted the services of lawyer and former San Francisco elected official Angela Alioto to defend her in the case, and while calls to Alioto's office were not returned at press time, Alioto can be seen here speaking with Mercury News. In the clip she defends Fang as follows: "The house was vacant for two years. It could have really been a true eyesore. It could have really been a true nuisance. It could have been boarded up, it could have been a number of things. And here Mrs. Fang comes along and she makes it into her dream. Even though it's always been the Flintstone home for decades now, she comes along and makes it really the Flintstone home." (Fang herself does not live at the residence.)
A petition at Change.org asking California Governor Gavin Newsom to step in and preserve the display has garnered almost 20,700 signatures in roughly two weeks — almost twice the number of residents in Hillsborough itself. Which is notable because the display in question is mostly visible outside of the town, i.e. from the highway.
The hilly, wooded nature of the community, combined with it's requirement that homes be built on at least a half acre of land each — keeping homes at a relegated distance from one another — all serve to create a situation in which the display may exist within Hillsborough, but is likely most visible from beyond it.
SYFY Wire spoke today with the attorney who filed the suit, Mark Hudak, assistant city attorney for the town of Hillsborough, and he tells us the complaint is unfortunately about more than just aesthetics. "The house itself is not at issue," says Hudak. "That was built back in the '70s. What [Fang] has done is a massive landscaping project that includes large statues of dinosaurs, animals, now some Flintstone characters, some signage [Fang has also installed lettering that reads in large capitals: "Yabba Dabba Doo."] and she's also built some things like decks and stairs that needed permits and safety features, and she didn't get permits for any of that."
He explains that in order to gain approval for the landscaping, Fang would have to apply for something called a "design review," to ensure that the layout conformed with community standards, but also, of course, she would have to apply for permits to make sure the yard was up to code and safe.
"Some of what she has out there may be permitted," adds Hudak, "but we don't have a complete application yet. We're going to continue to work with her to see what of her project can be approved." So, is that good news for keeping the Flintstones from turning into Rubble(s)? "These are pretty big statues," says Hudak,"and we've got a couple of concerns because we don't know really how they were installed. He explains that her property "is right on one of the largest earthquake faults in California, and it's in a location where we get very strong winds that are funneled in off the ocean. So when you get a big statue out there, if it's not properly installed, it could be a falling hazard."
Again, if the permits are all in order and everything is re-assembled up to code, can the Flintstones keep their yard? Hudak says,"It's an unusual installation for the town, but almost anything could be approved if it's properly screened, and is respectful for the neighbors." Also he adds, "something like ninety-seven percent of civil cases in California settle before a trial, so the odds are good" that this will be resolved without anyone having to argue the merits of a giant steel mastodon at trial. Let's hope a good, safe compromise can be reached. One might even call that Yabba Dabba due process.