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The Most Unusual Local Laws in California Towns

California often gets called out for its progressive lawmaking. But California has been making strange laws for generations–and many are still on the books!

Here are some of the most unusual local laws in effect in California’s towns.

1. High Heels Regulation – Carmel-by-the-Sea

In the scenic coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there is a rather peculiar law pertaining to footwear. Believe it or not, it is illegal to wear high heels over two inches in height, or with a base of less than one square inch, unless the wearer has obtained a permit.

This law isn’t intended to curb fashionable footwear but was put into place due to uneven pavements and cobblestone streets in the town.

It serves to protect the city from lawsuits resulting from trip-and-fall accidents. So, if you’re planning a visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea, make sure to pack comfortable, and regulation-friendly, shoes!

2. Peacocks Have the Right of Way – Arcadia

In Arcadia, peacocks always have the right of way, even on driveways and roads. This law was enacted to protect the city’s substantial peacock population. So, if you’re driving around Arcadia, beware of any flashy feathered pedestrians!

3. No Nukes in Chico

Chico, a city in Northern California, has a unique regulation that prohibits the production and detonation of nukes within city limits. There’s a hefty $500 fine for breaking this law. Arguably, if someone was actually able to make and detonate such a device, they would probably have more to worry about than a $500 fine.

4. Forbidden Frog Jumping in Fresno

In Fresno, it’s illegal for anyone to hold a frog-jumping contest and then eat the competing frogs afterwards. This law came about after the famed jumping frog jubilee in Calaveras County, which saw some unsavory characters eating the competition. While frog legs are a delicacy for some, Fresno has made it clear: if your frog is a jumper, it’s not a supper.

5. Bowling on the Sidewalk – Chico

Chico, California has another bizarre law to add to its list: It is illegal to bowl on the sidewalk. The exact origins of this quirky law are unclear, but one can imagine the chaotic and potentially dangerous scenes that could occur from sidewalk bowling sessions.

Not only could pedestrians be at risk of getting struck by a stray bowling ball, but the sidewalks themselves could sustain damage from the heavy bowling balls. So, while it might be an entertaining way to pass the time, Chico residents will have to reserve their bowling for the lanes and not the public walkways.

6. No Driving in a Housecoat

In the entire state of California, it’s illegal for women to drive a car in a housecoat.

Most Californians today probably wouldn’t know what a housecoat was, much less why it would interfere with driving.

7. Animal Limits – San Jose

In San Jose, there is a limit on the number of animals you can own. You’re allowed two cats, two dogs, two rabbits, and up to five other animals (excluding fish). This was likely enacted to control pet populations and avoid issues with neglect or hoarding, but it’s worth noting for any animal lovers out there.

While some of these laws may seem a bit peculiar, they offer a glimpse into the unique tapestry of California’s past. These local regulations, both past and present, have shaped the character of different Californian cities, creating a state that’s as rich in culture as it is in diversity.

Whether it’s offering right of way to peacocks or ensuring frogs get to retire in peace after their jumping careers, the Golden State’s legal code has a few tricks up its sleeve that are sure to delight and bemuse.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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