George Lucas first purchased a large plot of land in Marin County in 1978. He built Skywalker Ranch and began movie production shortly thereafter. In 1996, Marin County executives agreed to Lucas' master plan to build a movie production studio on nearby Grady Ranch. His master plan even included a wine cave that would become a grassy knoll that would hide the studio from a nearby road.
As the project was about to break ground in 2007, nearby residents began to voice opposition saying they believed it would lower property value. Surprised by the staunch opposition to his long planned project, he eventually pulled the plug on the high-profile studio that most communities would be begging for in their own backyards.
This week, Lucas announced he's moving forward with a new plan for the area—affordable housing for the county's lower income residents:
Lucas, the Star Wars creator is offering his own property in west Marin County off Lucas Valley Road near Novato for the project, with plans for a community of 224 homes right where neighbors said no to his studio expansion.
“He said ‘we’ve got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people,’” Lucas’ lawyer Gary Giacomini said.
Neighbors say it is payback for blocking his studio plans. Lucas says if he can't use the land for the long-planned studio, he might as well do something to help lower income residents of Marin County—one of the wealthiest counties in the United States.
The median home price in Marin County is an eye-popping $950,000.
While his neighbors are sticking by their claims that he is delivering payback, he's quick to brush those accusations aside:
“It’s inciting class warfare,” said Carolyn Lenert, head of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.
Mr. Lucas said in an e-mail that he only wanted “to do something good for Marin,” waving away accusations of ulterior motives.
“I’ve been surprised to see some people characterize this as vindictive,” he said, adding that there was a “real need” for affordable housing here. “I wouldn’t waste my time or money just to try and upset the neighbors.”
Whatever the motive, this move could mean real affordable housing in one of the Bay Area's most unaffordable areas. Kudos to George Lucas.