At a dramatic Thursday press conference in the backyard of the now world-famous Flintstone House at 45 Berryessa Way in Hillsborough, publisher and homeowner Florence Fang said that she would launch a countersuit against the city as her next move in an ongoing conflict over her prehistoric landscaping.
Fang’s attorney, Angela Alioto (a former member of the Board of Supervisors and onetime candidate for mayor of San Francisco), claims that the city had singled out Fang for bullying and persecution, partly based on racial animus.
“Is this really about Fred and Dino?” Alioto asked reporters Thursday. “Or is it about treating Mrs. Fang differently because she had a dream—and because she is Chinese and this is Hillsborough?”
Pressed for details on charges of racial bias, Alioto alleged that city officials made belittling and racist comments toward Fang during legal negotiations, including demands that she “speak English.”
Alioto also claims that Fang is not legally required to obtain permits for the alterations to her property, contrary to the charges brought on by city officials.
The city of Hillsborough has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Fang made a plea that framed her home, a bulbous house built in 1976 by architect William Nicholson, as a piece of Americana.
“The American spirit is you dare to make innovation,” said Fang, claiming that she’s received supportive comments from hundreds of people around the world about her cartoon-themed additions, many of them children.
She also repeatedly brandished a copy of the 1977 children’s book The Big Orange Splot, in which a garish paint spill on a rooftop upends the status quo in a conservative neighborhood where all of the houses look the same.
William Nicholson, the original architect for 45 Berryessa, was on hand to defend Fang as well.
“I felt I was going to revolutionize architecture” with the experimental home, said Nicholson, which he designed by bending steel frames around giant balloons to create its signature domed look.
“And I didn’t," he added.
He went on to note that the affection people show for the house, a favorite of many commuters on 280, now gratifies him.
In comments before the press conference, Nicholson said that he is surprised by how provocative the house at 45 Berryessa remains.
“I thought, it’s California, people are very openminded.”
In March, the city of Hillsborough sued Fang over her changes to the property.
The dispute is not related to the house itself but instead to Fang’s whimsical landscaping additions, which include a number of enormous dinosaur statues, figures of Flintstones characters, giant painted mushrooms, benches shaped like pigs, Bigfoot, and a tableau depicting a UFO and accompanying aliens.
Fang is not the first owner of the home. The experimental house has had the “Flintstone House” nickname for generations. But the new decorative landscaping appeared shortly after her purchase over a year ago.
Although the city council has declared the imagery a “public nuisance” and attempted to fine Fang in the past, the current litigation is mostly focused on what city attorneys refer to as “non-decorative additions to the property, including a retaining wall, steps, columns, gates, a parking strip, and a deck. [...that create] life safety hazards” on the property.
Nevertheless, both Fang and Alioto contend that the city’s agenda is mostly aesthetic.
“We’re in the United States, they can’t tell you to get rid of a dinosaur,” said Alioto Thursday.
Fang bought the house for $2.8 million in 2017. It is not her primary residence, as she owns another home in Hillsborough. She says that she purchased the Berryessa house primarily as a place to entertain.