State ex rel Stoyanoff v. Berkeley

When it came to aesthetics, State ex rel Stoyanoff v. Berkeley (1970) said an unelected zoning board can decide how your house must look, even if it’s shaped like a UFO or a regular house.

So here’s the fact pattern of this case. Stoyanoff, the plaintiff, wants to build a house shaped like a UFO in the City of Ladue, Missouri. However, the Architectural Board denied his building permit based on the fact that Stoyanoff’s UFO did not fit in with the structures of the surrounding community. Stoyanoff took the matter to court.

Here’s the issue in this case: Can a city tell you how your house must look?

Now here’s the rule as laid down by the Supreme Court of the USA. Yes, a city or it’s zoning board can tell you how your house must look, even if your house looks like a UFO. Basically, a zoning board can decide the aesthetics of houses in it’s city or jurisdiction.

The case also establishes federalism. It shows their is a jurisdiction for states aka cities and the federal government. The two jurisdictions don’t mix, and the court has shown it likes it that way in this case. This case shows that when it comes to city jurisdiction, that is basically the same as state jurisdiction.

Also, this case lays down a precedent in property law. That is, a zoning board can tell you how your house must look. Also, when it comes to courts, courts usually defer to zoning boards; that being said, this case is a rare case since it made it to the Supreme Court. This case would set the standard for years to come in similar property law cases.

Strangely, it can be said this case, too, is about social control. Not only can an unelected zoning board tell you how to use your property, it can tell you how it must look too. In time, too, we would see zoning boards telling people who could live in their homes and who could not live in their homes too. Even though the theme of social control began in the early 1900s, we see social control become a larger theme by the 1970s in property law.

Overall, this case set the precedent for property law in aesthetics. It established the fact that zoning boards can determine how houses look in a community. Also, this case set the standard for aesthetics in property law. State ex rel Stoyanoff v. Berkeley is a staple case for all law students in property law.

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