California Man Puts Giant Swastika in His Front Yard, Neighbors Are Offended, Worried About Property Value

A California man has shocked neighbors by having a 10 foot-wide Swastika built in his front yard.

Aerial-view images captured above Steve Johnson's one-storey home on Lindell Drive in El Sobrante, Contra Costa County, show a huge black concrete Swastika taking up a portion of his yard. The Swastika measures around 10 feet by 10 feet, according to Bay Area News Group.

In interviews with local news outlets, Johnson claimed he wasn't aware of what the sign represents. He said he liked the shape and denied that he supported the Nazis, while his neighbors expressed concern.

Used as a sign of good fortune for centuries by religions including Buddhism and Hinduism, Adolf Hitler adopted the symbol for the Nazi party in the 1920s. It is now widely considered a symbol of fascism, white supremacy, and extremist nationalist ideology.

Some six million Jews were systematically killed during the Holocaust orchestrated by the Third Reich, as well as others considered sub-human, including people with physical and mental disabilities, LGBT individuals, black people, Roma, Sinti, Pole and Slavic peoples, as well as political opponents, Soviet prisoners, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

According to the Jewish organization the Anti-Defamation League, the swastika is "overwhelmingly viewed as a hate symbol" in the U.S. It is currently banned in numerous countries including Germany.

San Francisco Bay Area, el Sobrante swastika
A design resembling a swastika is displayed in front of a home on June 5 in El Sobrante, California. People living in a San Francisco Bay Area suburb are upset that homeowner Steve Johnson has built a large design in his front yard that resembles a swastika. Getty/Justin Sullivan

Johnson spoke to reporters about his home's new feature. When asked about the sign in his yard, Johnson asked NBC Bay Area "What is a swastika?"

"I like swastikas," he said according to Bay Area News Group. "I think they look cool. I didn't do it to get attention. I'm not a worshiper of Nazis. I just thought it'd be a cool thing to put in there."

"I own this house I'll put what I want. It ain't none of your guys' business," he told ABC-affiliate KGO.

Johnson went on to claim he was referencing Tibet, rather than Nazism by placing the image in his yard, as well as on his doorbell and handrail.

"It's a Tibetan sign that's way back before swastikas were invented," Johnson said according to KGO. Asked whether he is Tibetan, he replied: "I could be."

Johnson also claimed the swastika was a reference to: "peace, tranquility and harmony."

But he told NBC Bay Area: "It doesn't represent anything.

"That represents me not having to pull weeds over in that part of my yard; that's what it represents to me. What does it represent to you?"

Speaking to Bay Area News Group on his Harley Davidson motorcycle outside his home, Johnson went on to state: "That Nazi [stuff] happened like 80 years ago. Get over it, I guess."

Johnson's neighbor Renee Schultz, who is Jewish, was asked by KGO if the symbol was offensive. She said: "Yes! On behalf of Jews that died with that—yes, absolutely!"

Schultz, who has lived near Johnson for 27 years, told NBC Bay Area, "I was very clear with him about my feelings.

"I don't agree with it; I think it's wrong. I don't like it, but it is his yard."

Vince Poehnelt, another neighbor, was worried that the sign would affect the value of his home.

"It's stupid. It kills the retail value of the house, kills the value of everyone on the street," he said.

Poehnelt told CBS SF Bay Area he doesn't think Johnson is "a hardcore Neo-Nazi. He may be racist."

NBC Bay Area, reported Poehnelt as saying that Johnson is "harmless" and "a little too lazy to be a full-blown neo-Nazi."

Nancy Appel, a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League, told Bay Area News Group: "Personally, and professionally, I find it deeply deeply offensive.

"The thing is huge, it's in concrete and symmetrical. It appears that a lot of effort went into it," she said.

The Anti-Defamation League considers displaying swastikas as a potential act of anti-Semitism.

Police told ABC7 they are not investigating the incident.

John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor, told NBC Bay Area the authorities cannot make Johnson pull down the symbol.

However, he said: "This is an unacceptable thing because of what this stands for and how people perceive the symbol."

Mary Salinas, another neighbor, backed Johnson. She told ABC7: "I look at his behavior and attitude towards us—we've never had a problem with him. He's always nice to us that's what I can say."

When reporters asked Johnson about the swastika sticker on his bike, he told them to leave his yard.