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Marin County Residents Not Feeling the Force

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The proposed LucasFilms Mission-style digital media production facility [Photo Credit: Grady Ranch]

Star Wars creator George Lucas is looking to expand on his Marin County mega complex, and nearby residents are not happy. The filmmaker is planning on constructing a cutting-edge digital media production facility on 52-acres of his Grady Ranch property, historic farmland part of the Lucas Valley in Marin, but his neighbors say the building is too large.

County supervisors approved the land use and a bigger project in 1995 but Lucas never built it, and returned last year to request revisions that reduce its scope. The revised project includes a 263,701 square foot Mission-style three-story building that would cover an area the size of two football fields and hold 340 employees. It would include one outdoor and two indoor film stages; screening rooms; a restaurant; general store; 20 suites for overnight guests; gym; day care center; and a 4,000-square-foot wine cave with private wine tasting rooms.

So why the blowup with the neighbors? The Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association say the proposed building is too tall and the Spanish mission style is aesthetically different than what what was originally proposed. They also claim they weren't notified about the project (we suspect that's because they didn't live there 16 years ago when it was approved) and that questions remain about "the risks to public safety and many other impacts to the habitat and residents."

LucasFilms says it's all fuss over nothing, since the building would be situated mostly out of view, and excavated dirt would be used to build a berm to hide the development from nearby houses and to restore the creeks and realign part of Lucas Valley Road. Apparently the new project is smaller than the one that was approved in 1995, and includes more environmental restoration efforts. The campus would also be surrounded by 187 acres of private open space, with an additional 2,500 acres protected by a Marin Agricultural Land Trust easement.

Lucas owns several ranches in the area, covering more than 6,100 acres in Northern California. Most of the developments, including Skywalker Ranch, have been praised for being considerate of the landscape and environmentally sensitive. Lucas has preserved 3,283 acres of open space since the late 1990s, including 800 acres of the Grady Ranch property that he donated to the county Open Space District as part of the original development master plan approved in 1995. Yeah, it sounds like he really hates the environment.

The proposed campus was approved Feb. 27 by the Marin County Planning Commission and immediately appealed by The Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association. Apparently NIMBYs aren't unique to San Francisco. The Marin County Board of Supervisors is expected to rule on the appeal today.
· Grady Ranch [Skywalker Properties LTD]
· 'Star Wars' giant's Marin development hits snag [SF Gate]
· Homeowners appeal huge Lucasfilm studio plan for Grady Ranch [Marin IJ]