By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON - Those cute little emojis have emotions running high in one southern California seaside enclave.
Irate neighbors in Manhattan Beach south of Los Angeles are not sure what they hate most about a local house's paint job - the garish pink color, the "bullying" imagery or the fact that the home is drawing curious crowds.
But they agree they want it painted over, and worry more of the same could come, according to testimony to the city Planning Commission.
"It's hit a hot button for a lot of people," commissioner Gerry T. Morton told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Wednesday, a day after citizens voiced concerns to the City Council.
The situation began in May when Manhattan Beach neighbors reported Kathryn Kidd for flouting local laws by using her home for short-term rentals. The city hit Kidd with a several thousand dollar fine.
Neighbors allege Kidd retaliated by painting her house hot pink, emblazoned with two large yellow "emoji" faces, one with a zippered lip and both sporting long eyelashes, which a neighbor who reported Kidd says was meant to resemble her.
"It's a sign directed at me personally as well as the people who live on my street," Susan Weiland told the city Planning Commission last month in videotaped testimony.
Weiland called the paint job "bullying" and said it could hurt her property value. She and others also complained of additional street traffic owing to gawkers, and that a music video was even filmed atop the building.
Kidd claims the paint job had nothing to do with the rental issue, that the zipper referenced fashion and that she "chose to paint it the colors that I want" as is her right, according to media reports.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation was unable to contact Kidd, and the city's mayor, city council and the artist who did the work did not respond to requests for comment.
The Planning Commission is set to take up the dispute at the end of the month.
"People are concerned that their neighborhood might end up like this or somebody might retaliate against them for something they might do or say," Morton said.
While the commission has no sway with matters of personal taste, it could act if the offending work is seen as being commercial, Morton said.
Property rights expert Maureen Brady said legal precedent tends to favor homeowners in such cases, although past cases have recognized liability for what she called "spite fences," described as ugly, useless walls built to annoy a neighbor.
"Landowners' claims that someone else's structure is an 'aesthetic nuisance' because it's ugly or garish have generally been rejected by courts," she said.
At least one local doesn't mind the paint job — Edward Averday, who currently rents it.
"This is a really nice place to live. From the inside, my view is of the ocean — what's not to like?" he told local media.