This is a rare case in which living under a rock (Bedrock, that is) might make you more likely to have heard the news. As SYFY WIRE previously reported, a San Francisco suburb called Hillsborough, California, has recently sued 85-year-old Florence Fang — the woman who bought the famed "Flintstones House" that has been located on I-280 in California since 1976 — for further upping the cartoonish nature of her property by adding large dinosaurs and other statuary to her yard.
The city's lawsuit, filed last month, called the yard an eyesore, which might seem strange considering that the house has a huge fan club among the folks who see it best, the commuters along the adjacent freeway (a Change.org petition in favor of keeping the yard as it is has more than 22,700 signatures as of press time, more than twice the number of residents of Hillborough itself). In addition, the home was already shaped like a deluxe Flintstones house and painted in an array of Hanna-Barbera-worthy colors when Fang bought it.
As of yesterday, we know: The Flintstones House is not going down without a fight. In an hourlong press conference that concluded with a hearty collective shout of "yabba dabba doo," Fang, her lawyer Angela Alioto, and the house's original architect Nick Nicholson defended Fang's expansion of the home's campy charm and laid out their plan of action.
In a surprising move it's fair to say no one saw coming, Alioto claims that Fang is no longer the owner of the home, so the city will have to amend its filing. According to Alioto and to the demurral she filed on Fang's behalf, Fang transferred her ownership of the property to an entity called Flintstones LLC, a California limited liability company, back in February of this year. That was before the town of Hillsborough filed its lawsuit. If the municipality wants to take issue with someone, says Alioto, they'll have to take it up with the LLC.
What comes next makes it pretty clear that Fang is likely involved with the LLC, but LLCs can offer some legal protection to individuals from being sued directly; that seems to be exactly what it's designed to do here. According to Alioto, she will be filing a countersuit to protect the yard, and it seems like the suit will be exploring many roads of defense, from claiming First Amendment violations via the township trying to dictate Fang's personal expression, to construing the town's endless bureaucratic hurdles as a discriminatory harassment of Fang.
Fang and Alioto both claim that when Fang first bought the property she was told she did not need permits for her backyard, but only for her front yard, and that the rules regarding the former were added later. They also claimed that the city "kept moving the goal posts" for what Fang needed to do to comply. "She jumped over hurdle after hurdle, and yet it was never good enough," said Alioto.
Fang spoke at length in an impassioned defense of her right to decorate her property as she liked. "Right now all I want is a peaceful, happy retired life," she said, before describing the thousands upon thousands of supporters she was aware of: "Your support makes me have my spirit to fight."
The home's original architect also spoke at length in support of Fang. "When I originally got the concept of building this," said Nicholson, "I really felt that I was going to revolutionize architecture. And I didn't. But people loved it ... People loved it from the inside particularly, but nobody bought them. I felt like such a failure. Only after a couple of years did I come to a consciousness of 'Hey, with these tens of thousands of people going by here ... I'm causing all of these people to think outside the box.'"
Many years later, along came Fang. "This is one of the most dynamic, creative people that I've ever met," said Nicholson. "Now I think I awakened a thinking outside the box. She actually did something more." At the end of the day, said the architect, "She is so strong and so resilient. The city officials don't know what they are up against."
Only time will tell whether the city of Hillsborough, which seemed to want to avoid rubbernecking at all costs, will back down under the weight of so much public scrutiny. (Alioto even claimed that schoolchildren have mailed drawings of dinosaurs to Town Hall to ask them to stop opposing the yard.) Mark Hudak, the lawyer for the city, had previously told SYFY WIRE that much of the opposition was based on safety concerns. If that is true, once those are addressed, if the city still opposes the yard decor it may have to answer questions like the one posed by Alioto yesterday: "On a First Amendment basis, can you imagine someone telling you to change the color of your patio furniture?"
Yabba dabba don't get her started on why she feels that's unconstitutional. For instance, just about an hour down I-280, another eclectic California house is unimpeded by such challenges.