For 25 years, George Lucas has had a problem. He’s been the Darth Vader of an evil developing empire.
Or so say his wealthy California neighbors. Since 1978, when he set up his corporate headquarters, Skywalker Ranch, on his property in Lucas Valley, Lucas has been attempting to get plans approved for a 300,000 square foot movie studio (which, while massive, would preserve 95% of the acreage and include plans to restore the topography). He’s been blocked by his anti-business, NIMBY neighbors every step of the way.
But far more interesting than Lucas’ defeat, is his plan for revenge.
As the official statement of withdrawal puts it: ”The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors.”
Thus last month, after years of frustration, Lucasfilms pulled its application for a studio facility and started conversations with The Marin Community Foundation to help them build an affordable housing complex on the site – which Lucas surely knows will raise more hackles. In the words of Peter Hall: “if there’s one thing rich people will hate more than having movie magic made in their backyard, it’s poor people moving in.”
Lucas’ trials and tribulations are all too common in a world where distrust has turned neighbors not just into NIMBYs, but BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). However, as we’ve chronicled in our Saving Suburbia Series and our latest on Crowdsourcing Citizen Participation, creating a positive discourse with the community is primary to any successful development.
So, while we appreciate Lucas’ gumption to trap his neighbors in their own logic (you only want housing? I’ll give you housing!), this rhetoric of antagonism will probably do little to change his neighbors from NIMBYs to YIMBYs – leaving the fate of this low-income housing project decidedly uncertain.