In a surprising turn of events, George Lucas’ LucasFilm, a film production company with a 6,100 acre footprint in Marin County, Calif. called “Skywalker Ranch,” has pulled out in the late stages of a plan to build a new digital studio, instead deciding to sell the land to a developer for affordable housing. Lucas’ abrupt pivot comes in direct response to opposition by local residents largely due to environmental and quality of life concerns, and a decision by the Marin County Board of Supervisors to postpone the final vote on the approval of the digital studio project. Marin appears to be dumbfounded by the chain of events, especially since Lucas had invested years and millions of dollars in site planning for this latest expansion.
For advocates of affordable housing and related social justice issues in Marin, the Lucas drama is a tremendous boon. Setting aside the motive for Lucas’ decision, which some locals have called a ‘thumb in the nose,” or, more salacious, an attempt at “citing class warfare,” Lucas is essentially forcing the community’s hand on affordable housing, which it has only reluctantly addressed in the past, despite its heavily left-leaning politics. Jeffrey Tanenbaum, a supporter of the original Lucas project and local resident, summarized some of the current sentiments about the Lucas project in the New York Times: “If the Grady Ranch \[studio project] had gone forward, it would have increased property value…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.”