Not in My Neighborhood: Dinosaurs and Flintstones

07 April, 2019

Tall dinosaurs stand among unusual-looking plants on the grounds around a California home.

A statue of cartoon character Fred Flintstone stands near the front door and welcomes visitors. Nearby sits a large sign painted in orange, purple and red. It reads "Yabba Dabba Do," the words Flintstone made famous in his 1960s television show.

Joseph Barbera poses with famed Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, from left, Scooby Doo, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble
Joseph Barbera poses with famed Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, from left, Scooby Doo, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble

Property rights vs. government rules

In a pricey neighborhood outside San Francisco, there is a battle between government rules and property rights.

A retired publisher has built a home that honors "The Flintstones." There are Stone Age statues that look like animals from the show, along with space creatures and other strange things.

International media are following the dispute. Thousands of people have signed an online petition to save the property, which can be seen from a nearby road.

Florence Fang's 832-square-meter house is not at risk. It is the grounds around it that the town of Hillsborough says must change. The property is not as nice-looking as the neighboring properties, say the officials. Last month, they went to court to make her remove the garden statues. Fang does not live in the house, but uses it for parties.

Giving people joy

Angela Alioto, a former San Francisco supervisor, is the lawyer for the 84-year-old owner. Alioto says the officials want to take away Fang's right to enjoy her yard and promises an intense fight.

"Mrs. Fang has made people smile, she's giving them joy. What's not to love about Dino, who acts like a dog?" said Alioto. "What is wrong with these people?"

The unusually shaped house, currently painted red and purple, was built in 1976. Fang, who once published The San Francisco Examiner, bought the property in June 2017 for $2.8 million.

Go through the legal process

Lawyer Mark Hudak is representing the town of Hillsborough. He says the town prides itself on its rural, woodsy feel. He added that rules are in place "so neighbors don't have to look at your version of what you would like to have, and you don't have to look at theirs... she still has to go through the process like everyone else."

Officials say Fang did not follow the town's stop-work orders. She also ignored an order to remove the statues by last December 5. She did pay a $200 fine, however.

Hide the dinosaur

Tim Iglesias is a property professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. He said the owner has ignored the government rules again and again.

"If they let her get away, then all the other wealthy people in Hillsborough can say, ‘Hey, I can do whatever I want with my property. Who cares about the planning department?'"

The final decision will come after more claims are presented in court. Lawyer Alioto says Fang's constitutional rights to free speech and religion were violated.

"They want everything removed. They want the dinosaurs removed," Alioto said. "They wanted her to put a tree in front of the dinosaur, so you couldn't see the dinosaur."

I'm Jill Robbins.

Jane Har reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

dinosaur – n. one of many reptiles that lived on Earth millions of years ago

yard - n. an outdoor area that is next to a house and is usually covered by grass

cartoon - n. a film or television show made by photographing a series of drawings or an animated film or television show

petition - n. a written document that people sign to show that they want a person or organization to do or change something

What do you think of this house? Is there an unusual house in your town? Tell us about it. Write to us in the Comments Section.