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Marin County Officials Say Man's Quirky Property Is A 'Junkyard,' But He Calls It Art

GREENBRAE (KPIX 5) -- A Marin County man says he's under attack from local officials for the quirky, offbeat art pieces on his property, which officials say threaten code violations.

Rancho Shazam Junk
The front of Rancho Shazam, with slides protruding (CBS)

If you travel Highway 101 in Marin County frequently, you've probably noticed it: the house with the slides hanging down from the top story. "Rancho Shazam" is where Lucky Drive ends and where one man's imagination begins.

"I describe the architecture as guerrilla architecture," property owner Lee Greenberg told KPIX 5.

Lee Greenberg is responsible for most of the quirky outsider art pieces on his Greenbrae property, including a fountain made of leaking, twisted up pipes he calls, "Honey, call the plumber."

"That's not gonna find its way into the Louvre," he said.

Greenberg has been adding statuary and offbeat creations, like a bizarrely decorated car he calls "Cyborg," since he bought the property following the 1989 earthquake. The three homes he built onsite are filled with art taken with a huge grain of salt, like the two Wizard of Oz Tinmen standing guard in the front yard.

"I mean, this is a dead-end street next to the freeway that floods and has earthquakes. If not here, then where?" he joked.

But not everyone is laughing. Marin County is threatening Greenberg for code violations, describing his property as a junkyard. But he says the Chamber of Commerce recently took photos of his place to promote tourism in Marin.

"So, is it a junkyard or a tourist attraction? It's a tourist attraction!" he said.

In light of the Ghost Ship fire, the county seems concerned that people may be living in the bottom floors in what they consider a dangerous flood zone. But Greenberg says the first floor is only a work and storage space for the artists who live upstairs, and he's even removed walls to try to comply with county mandates.

Greenberg believes someone is really just griping about all the junk.

"They are complaint driven…and I'm suggesting they should be consensus driven," he said.

Ron Freshman isn't complaining. He's driven past the place for 20 years, but stopped by Monday to get his first up-close look at things, including the piece "Foamhenge," a group of giant stone monoliths made of Styrofoam that houses Greenberg's trash cans.

"It was interesting art work and had interesting things here that I should have stopped to see many years ago," Freshman said.

Greenberg says he's made some changes and has a week to schedule another inspection from the county. If he's found to be out of compliance, he could be facing fines of $2,500 per day.

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