Lucasfilm abandons controversial studio project
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 7:18 p.m.
“Star Wars” director George Lucas dropped plans for a new movie studio in Marin County on Tuesday, blaming angry neighbors and government officials for derailing the project.
“We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities,” his company Lucasfilm said in a statement.
The company didn't say where it would locate the studio complex.
Marin business and local government leaders called Lucas' move a blow to the county's economy, but neighbors expressed relief.
“It sends a loud and disturbing message to any company coming to Marin,” said Cynthia Murray, a former Marin County supervisor who now heads North Bay Leadership Council, which represents employers in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.
The Lucas project “would be welcome any other place in the world,” she said. The council supported Lucasfilm's plan.
Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which led opposition to the project, released a short statement saying it was surprised by the announcement.
“There were clearly many factors involved in making this decision,” the association said. “We are sure that it was made with consideration for what is best for Lucasfilm.”
Association director Hillary Sciarillo said the group wouldn't object to a Lucasfilm development closer to Highway 101.
In February, the association said more studies were needed to address traffic, noise and wildlife impacts.
Lucas wanted to expand his filmmaking operation in the quiet valley that has been home to his Skywalker Ranch for three decades, building a 270,000-square-foot digital media center on the nearby Grady Ranch.
The plan included a 51-foot-tall, mission-style compound with two 85-foot towers, two indoor sound stages and an outdoor stage of nearly 7,000 square feet.
There were to be screening rooms, guest housing for visiting production teams, a general store and cafeteria for employees, as well as a 4,000-square-foot wine cave for private tastings and storage of the wine and olive oil produced on the working ranches.
“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,” Lucas' company said.
The project suffered another blow last month when state and federal regulators raised concerns about company's stream restoration plans.
“We realize our solution to creating open space by placing low-impact commercial facilities on farmland, while permanently preserving over 95% of the total acreage, has not been accepted by our neighbors. Nor are they or many of the public agencies interested in the $50 to $70 million restoration of the stream,” the company said. “Maybe we're ahead of our time.”
Lucasfilm said it hopes to sell the property to a low-income housing developer.
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