5 bizarre houses in the Bay Area that have caused controversy and torn neighborhoods apart

The Flintstone house is Hillsborough, California.

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The Flintstone house is Hillsborough, California.
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Courtesy of Alain Pinel Realtors

  • California and the Bay Area specifically are known for their unorthodox, quirky nature.
  • People often have strong feelings about these unique homes, and may either love them or hate them.
  • Some homes are so controversial that the owners have been fined or even taken to court.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With unusual buildings, there’s often someone who thinks its an eyesore. The Bay Area is no exception.

Silicon Valley and the nearby Bay Area are known for the luxurious mansions that are home to tech millionaires, but they also have some experimental architecture that pushes the limits of what counts as a home.

Some examples have even been challenged in court as public nuisances. Unusual paint jobs and architectural oddities make some houses stand out in monotonous neighborhoods.

Here are 5 controversial houses in and around Silicon Valley. Whether they’re eyesores or cool works of art is for the beholder to decide.


1. The Flintstones House in Hillsborough, California.

The Flintstone house is Hillsborough, California.

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Courtesy of Alain Pinel Realtors

This cartoon-inspired house in Silicon Valley isn’t loved by everyone. The California town it was built in, Hillsborough, sued the owner of this house Florence Fang in March to force her to remove dinosaur statues and a sign that reads “Yabba Dabba Doo.”

The town called her additions to the property a “public nuisance” in the lawsuit and claimed that she did not have proper permits for the additions, according to the New York Times.


The owner is counter-suing and alleging discrimination. The court case is ongoing.

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Courtesy of Alain Pinel Realtors

2. The “Fish House” in Berkeley is famous in the area.

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John Storey

Architect Eugene Tssui designed this unusual home for his parents based on the tardigrade, a micro-animal that is considered nearly indestructible, according to local media publication Berkeleyside.

His parents wanted a home that could survive an earthquake, so Tssui based his design on the creature, although he now calls it by the better-known name of Fish House.


A 1995 East Bay Express article called “Not in My Backyard” covered the drama between Tssui and his Berkeley neighbors, who didn’t want the sci-fi looking house on their street.

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Wikimedia Commons

One neighbor told the paper, “It’s not that I don’t like the house. Somewhere else it might be okay, in the hills, for example, or with more space in the desert. In Disneyland, I think it’s a cool house.”

Today, the home is a popular tourist attraction.


3. The Bike House in San Francisco is unlike anything else.

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Alexandra Kenin/Urban Hiker San Francisco

This Laurel Heights home incorporates bikes into every aspect of the building, including windows made from wheels, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

It stands out in a neighborhood of predominantly Victorian and Edwardian-style houses.


4. The Alameda “Spite House” is one of only a few such structures left in the US

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Wiki User: Elf/Creative Commons

A spite house is a building constructed to annoy neighbors or city officials, usually by blocking out sunlight, street access, or just being an eyesore.

According to Atlas Obscura, this house was built around the turn of the century, when the city of Alameda took most of a plot of land inherited by Charles Frolling in order to build a street.

Frolling had intended to use the land to build his dream home, but the city and an unsympathetic neighbor ruined his plans.

To get back at them, Frolling used what little land he had left to build an oddly proportioned house: 20 feet high, 54 feet long, and only 10 feet wide.

He built the house as an intended eyesore to remind the city of how it wronged him, and also to inconvenience his neighbor by partially blocking street access.

This house was grandfathered in; modern zoning laws wouldn’t allow a structure like this to be built today.


5. An octagon-shaped home in San Francisco is unusual.

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Wikimedia Commons

For a time in the 19th century, octagon-shaped houses were all the rage, because they were thought to be more efficient, with fewer building materials, and cheaper to heat, according to Atlas Obscura.

In reality, they were difficult to furnish and layout floor plans. The style became known as “Fowler’s folly,” after the misguided man who promoted them.

This house was built in 1861 and is now owned by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.