Exterior “Suggestions”: Neighborly or Not Okay?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
This Noe Valley house has been painted this way for so long, it’s become an icon of the neighborhood. Imagine if the neighbors had nixed it!!

A friend shared this story: The day she and her husband moved into a new house, they mentioned to a neighbor that they might paint the exterior. He confessed that he hated the existing sunflower yellow so much that he’d offered to pay the previous owner to paint it. And while they weren’t exactly loving the yellow either, they were a bit taken aback…

This being San Francisco, ostensibly one of the most accepting, least judgmental cities around, you might think neighbors would take a “live and let live” approach. (Not like another friend’s neighbors in suburban Denver, who gave her grief about weeds poking up in a tiny strip of gravel behind her garage.) But in fact, we’ve found that neighbors here, perhaps out of some ingrained activist spirit, are frequently all up in each other’s business.

Surely we all have opinions about our neighbors’ choice of exterior decor, from lawn ornaments to wind chimes. But really, is it any of our business? In certain neighborhoods, an HOA sets actual rules for how a property should look. So should neighbors on a regular non-HOA street be allowed input into each others’ exterior choices?

What do you think? Are neighborly “suggestions” ever appropriate?