Is George Lucas Inciting Class Warfare With a Proposed Development?

Norimitsu Onishi describes a feud ripe for the pages of a Hollywood script, between movie mogul George Lucas and his wealthy neighbors over his plans to build affordable housing in Marin County.
May 25, 2012, 8am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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More than three decades ago, in the years immediately after "Star Wars" was released, George Lucas began to build and expand his movie production empire in Marin, County, one of the richest areas in the nation.  In the face of staunch opposition, Lucas recently decided to call off plans for his third sequel - a major expansion to his studio - with an emotional statement posted online stating Lucasfilm would build instead in a place "that sees us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire." Critics were likely mollified until he made public a major (viewed by some as vindictive) rewrite to his plans - he would sell the land to a developer to build low income housing.

"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. His proposal has pitted neighbor against neighbor, who, after failed peacemaking efforts over local artisanal cheese and wine, traded accusations in the local newspaper."

Moving forward, Lucas will sell Grady Ranch to the Marin Community Foundation (MCF) to develop affordable housing.  Both supporters and opponents seem to have come to terms with the decision.  A project advocate, Jeffrey Tanenbaum said, "It's likely that if affordable housing were to be built in the neighborhood, it would have a negative impact on property value. But that's not a major factor for me. Affordable housing has to go somewhere."

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Published on Monday, May 21, 2012 in The New York Times
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