Land Use Wars: George Lucas Strikes Back
After a long battle to build a new studio facility on his ranch in Marin County, California, George Lucas has given up the fight. "We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough," the Star Wars director writes [pdf]. "Marin is a bedroom community and is committed to building subdivisions, not business." And so, in the spirit of building bedrooms, Lucas has announced a new plan for his land. The New York Times reports:
Mr. Lucas said he would sell the land to a developer to bring "low income housing" here.
"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 Mr. Lucas's intentions, his announcement has unsettled a county whose famously liberal politics often sits uncomfortably with the issue of low-cost housing and where battles have been fought over such construction before.
"If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land," Lucas explains in his statement, "then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit." A Lucasfilm official told the Times: "George, being the great guy that he is, doesn't want to build more housing for rich people since Marin is loaded with them."
Lucas hasn't always been a force for good in land-rights fights: His same statement that complains about the barriers to building on his property also complains that he wasn't able to put up similar barriers himself when a developer built a neighborhood nearby. But that's forgiven now. You have to appreciate a move that will simultaneously achieve four worthy goals: making housing more affordable for the poor, showing up the hypocrisies of the local limousine liberals, taking revenge (whether or not Lucas wants to call it that) on the people who restricted his property rights, and setting off a reaction that promises to be far more entertaining than any of the director's recent movies.