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.

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."

Full Story: Lucasfilm Retreats in Battle With Wealthy Neighbors



Affordable Housing is not Class Warfare

This is one of the most unfortunate titles I have ever seen Planetizen use. Among the nine SF Bay Area counties Marin has shown the most reticence to build affordable housing and in fact has built the least (by far) over the years. This is quite a shock, given the "progressive" attitude that most Marinites exhibit. Remember the Marin City project years ago? Marin County and its member cities have locked down development potential to preserve their elite "environmental" trappings at the cost of providing housing for those who provide their services. Just look at the census numbers.

Wrong Place for Affordable Housing

The Bay Area is currently adopting a regional plan that emphasizes transit and smart growth. This development moves in exactly the wrong direction by developing agricultural land on the periphery of the Bay Area. One of the goals of smart growth is to preserve open space and reduce auto-dependency by directing new development to locations that are already developed.

Apart from the environmental issues, this is the wrong place for affordable housing, because the new development would be totally auto-dependent, and the extra cost of transportation would be an economic burden for people who live there. It reminds me of the old saying: The United States is the first country where people drive to the poor house.

Charles Siegel

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