Florence Fang says the Town of Hillsborough is violating her First Amendment rights, discriminating against her because she’s Chinese
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Today’s post involves the unusual property of a multi-millionaire, located on a hillside within view of California Highway 280. But it’s not governed by a homeowners association.
Look at the details of this story – they vividly illustrate the irony of fighting for private property rights in a “free” country, where millions of Americans reside in HOA-governed residential developments.
The Flintstone House lawsuit
A high-profile legal battle over the Flintstone House is gaining international attention. The home — technically owned by Flintstone LLC — was purchased by retired San Francisco Examiner publisher, Florence Fang, about two years ago.
According to a recent press conference (see video link below, from Mercury News), the unusual home was built in the 1970s, and has had several owners. The free-form, cave-like, red and purple abode had been abandoned for two years when Fang purchased the property. She says she uses the quirky house mostly for entertaining guests.
Within a year, Fang began to landscape and decorate the sloped lot surrounding her home. According to her attorney, Angela Alioto, Fang obtained permits before adding a retaining wall and other structures to the property. The property owner was told a permit is not necessary for landscape design of less than 10,000 square feet.
To pay homage to the Flintstone House, Fang chose to add several rather large statues of the vintage cartoon characters: Fred, Wilma, Betty, Barney, and Dino. The landscape also features several towering sculptures of dinosaurs, and is dotted with whimsically colorful mushrooms.
Alioto stated that, last year, during a permit inspection of her client’s front yard, a Town of Hillsborough inspector decided to cite Fang for code violations in her back yard.
Hillsborough officials claim it’s not about the house, but the landscape decorations. They say that the stairs embedded in the hillside are unsafe, and that Fang didn’t follow the process for obtaining permits to install the large statues.
NOTE: Fang’s property is not visible to her neighbors, there’s no homeowner’s association, and there are no deed restrictions.
The Town sued Fang, after they say she ignored several code enforcement citations, and refused to remove all of the decorative statues.
Alioto says her client complied with all of the Town’s requests, including planting trees to block the view of the dinosaurs. (But, other than onlookers from the highway, who can see the sculptures anyway?)
Fang says none of her neighbors have complained about her homage to iconic American TV characters, or the towering statutes of prehistoric dinosaurs.
The homeowner contends that “this is America” and that the Town is stomping all over her First Amendment rights. Fang and Alioto think that racial discrimination could be behind the Town’s “harassment,” and their attempts to restrict the homeowner’s private property rights.
Isn’t it ironic that a wealthy immigrant of a communist country must remind us that the United States of America is supposed to be a free country, where all of its people are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech and personal expression?
I listened to Alioto’s statement to the press. She talked passionately about how the Town of Hillsborough has no right to trespass on private property. She says government has not right stand in the way of her client’s American Dream.
One nagging thought came to my mind:
What about the American Dreams of millions living on deed restricted property, most of it HOA-governed?
Homeowners, condominium, and cooperative associations across the country routinely punish homeowners and residents for violation of dozens of the most petty covenants, restrictions, rules, and regulations.
Some typical offenses, for which HOAs fine, sanction, or sue homeowners:
- Unapproved paint colors on the home’s exterior
- Lawn too long, too brown, too many errant weeds
- Unapproved landscape plants, flowers, flower pots, landscape borders, patio furniture, play structures, etc.
- Garbage cans not neatly stashed away out of sight
- Parking the “wrong” kind of vehicle in the driveway, or even on a public street
- Hanging the “wrong” type of window coverings
- Displaying signs or flags that don’t meet picky or vague HOA requirements
- Unapproved holiday decor, including religious symbols that don’t meet limitations on size and manner of placement, and, of course
- Display of lawn figurines or any object that might remotely stand out in the community’s sea of sameness.
Why do so many Americans display public outrage over municipal government overreach, yet resist loudly objecting to oppressive overreach of anti-American deed restrictions and HOA rules?
Perhaps it’s because the U.S. is now divided into two separate countries and divided by neighborhoods.
While some Americans still live Free from neighborhood and government micromanagement or our property, our speech, and our lives, nearly 70 million Americans reside in homes and neighborhoods Restricted by “contracts” they didn’t write and couldn’t negotiate.
For anyone living in covenant restricted housing, or under HOA governance, Alioto’s “this is America” argument feels like a slap in the face.
When the same argument comes from homeowners in HOA-ville, USA, it usually falls on deaf ears of government leaders at the local, state, and federal level. ♦
Flintstone House legal drama: Both sides gear up for fight
Florence Fang announced a legal filing challenging Hillsborough’s lawsuit (VIDEO of news conference)
By Marissa Kendall, Mercury News | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: April 11, 2019 at 1:40 pm | UPDATED: April 12, 2019 at 6:46 am
Owner of Controversial ‘Flintstones House’ in Hillsborough Fights Back With Counter Lawsuit
For owner Florence Fang, the house is more than a homage to the popular cartoon series, it’s a homage to America, and now she’s counter-suing the town for discrimination
By Robert Handa, Jennifer Gonzalez and Riya Bhattacharje, NBC Bay Area, Published Apr 11, 2019 at 12:40 PM | Updated at 11:05 AM PDT on Apr 12, 2019
Flintstones house battles Northern California town in lawsuit
By Janie Har The Associated Press (Las Vegas Review Journal)April 4, 2019 – 4:32 pm
Flintstone House’ owner countersues Hillsborough, alleges racism
“We’re in the United States, they can’t tell you to get rid of a dinosaur”
By Adam Brinklow, Curbed San Francisco | Apr 12, 2019, 3:37pm PDT | Photography by Patricia Chang