After years of fighting rich neighbours in California’s Marin County over plans to build a movie studio next door to Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas gave it up as a bad job. In 2012 Lucasfilm released this statement:
“We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough. We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire.”
Game, set and match to the NIMBYs it would seem. But never underestimate the mind that engineered the ultimate underdog story of the Rebel Alliance versus the Empire. Three years and a $4bn cash injection from Disney later, Lucas has plans for the site. Quite philanthropic plans. In fact, he is putting $150m of his own money into building 224 environmentally-friendly affordable homes for local workers and retirees. According to local newspaper The Contra Costa Times:
“A plan that will be submitted to the county Community Development Agency this week calls for 120 two- and three-bedroom workforce residences in one four-story cluster and two two-story clusters on the site, and 104 one- and two-bedroom residences for seniors in a four-story cluster, as well as four parking garages. The proposal includes a community center and pool, terraced gardens, an orchard and a “micro farm” or community garden, and a barn. It limits development to a 52-acre tract of the 1,039-acre ranch, 800 acres of which already have been dedicated as open space.”
Predictably, the neighbours who opposed the studio have gone ballistic, but Lucas is unapologetic. In a statement released via his attourney, Lucas simply sais, “we’ve got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people.”
Almost enough to make you forgive him for The Phantom Menace.
But not quite.