A small Bay Area town just renewed an ongoing conflict with one of its strangest landmarks. Nestled in the shrubbery along the California’s I-280, the orange and purple bulges of the Flintstone House at 45 Berryessa Avenue are a beloved milestone to commuters and a dreadful blight to neighbors. This week, the town of Hillsborough sued the house’s owner, Florence Fang, for code violations, according to a report by the Mercury News. The complaint does not mince words, calling the structure “a highly visible eyesore” that is “out of keeping with community standards,” which seems as close to a declaration of war as municipal language allows.
Despite the resemblance, the building wasn’t originally meant to evoke the iconic 1960s cartoon show. Bay Area architect William Nicholson designed the house in 1976 with a simple concept: a home made entirely out of curves. He was inspired by the technique known as monolithic dome construction, which involves plaster applied to wire mesh and inflated aeronautical balloons. Nicholson painted the resulting globular building off-white, cementing the house’s likeness to Fred Flintstone’s sweet Stone Age pad.
After changing hands several times and getting a new—perhaps even less municipally acceptable—paint job, which makes it look like the architectural equivalent of a Tide Pod, the house landed on the market in 2015 and languished without a buyer for two years. Desperate to sell, the owners slashed their original asking price of $4.2 million and even listed the place on Airbnb for $750 a night, until someone as iconoclastic as the house swooped in to buy it.
Florence Fang, noted media mogul and matriarch of one of the Bay Area’s most powerful and vituperated dynasties, bought the Flintstone House in 2017 for $2.8 million. Fang told the Mercury News that she had always wondered who lived in the house when she saw it while driving up I-280. As soon as she got a close look, she said, she fell in love. Fang leaned into the dwelling’s nickname and began making improvements to the landscape that seem straight out of Bedrock. Fang’s installations include, but are not limited to, several 15-foot-tall dinosaurs; an enormous metal woolly mammoth and giraffe; life-size models of Fred Flintstone, Dino, the Great Gazoo, and his saucer; and an enormous sign reading “Yabba Dabba Doo,” as well as a retaining wall, deck, parking strip, and steps. Oh, and an expansive astroturf lawn.
The local community wasn’t high on the house to begin with, but Fang’s improvements were several steps too far. Beyond the question of taste, the suit with the San Mateo Superior Court boils down to permits—or the lack thereof. According to the filing, the nearly life-size dinosaurs count as unenclosed structures that require prior approval and a building permit. Hillsborough issued stop work orders, it continues, that Fang ignored. It also singles out the astroturf and Flintstone figurines as landscape improvements that must to be removed immediately unless Fang can provide proof of prior approval by city officials, reports The East Bay Times. Atlas Obscura could not reach the reclusive Fang for comment, but her grandson Sean Fang told a CBS News affiliate that his grandmother “will fight to save the Flintstone House.”
It’s no surprise that the ultra-rich residents of Hillsborough—which made headlines after three residents were implicated in the recent college bribery scandal—have an extensive and mandatory review process for any home construction or landscaping projects. The town’s municipal code gives neighbors and community standards great sway over any one resident’s particular desires. Outside of the lawsuit, readers of the Mercury News seem divided over the status of the house. “What a wonderful escape from the mundane,” wrote commenter Creighton Sneetly. “Glad I don’t live within eye sight of that pile of dung,” countered commenter Old Time Hockey Fan. Good thing it’s not painted brown. Yet.