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North Bay NIMBYs hate George Lucas’s vineyard

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The rise of Skywalker Vineyards leaves bad taste in some neighbor’s mouths

Sprawling green hills, with a small pond in the foreground and planted vineyards visible in the distance.
Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, near the site of his contentious vineyard.
Photo by Mike McCune

Marin County property owners are locked in a struggle with Academy Award-winning filmmaker and longtime North Bay resident George Lucas over his new vineyard, but have opted to negotiate rather than (pardon the term) force legal action—for now.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, the showdown is between Lucas’s Skywalker Properties and the Nicasio Land Owners Association, and centers on a 624-acre plot at 3838 Lucas Valley Road in the town of Nicasio, north of Woodacre.

Evidently some Nicasio residents don’t like the sight of Lucas’s new enterprise, considering his vineyard an eyesore compared to the property’s longstanding use of nothing at all.

The landowners have threatened legal action, alleging (no surprise) potential violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.

However, for the time being all parties are trying to settle the issue less confrontationally, now entering into a “tolling agreement”—which, according to the U.S. Legal Law Dictionary, is “an agreement to waive a right to claim that litigation should be dismissed due to the expiration of a statute of limitations,” usually a bid to defer legal action—to see if aesthetic changes on the vineyard can placate the complainers first.

The agreement extends until the end of March 2020. The property group reserves its right to take Lucas to court if they’re not satisfied. Lucas’s lawyer tells the Marin IJ that he believes some locals like the vineyard but others would prefer the site remain vacant.

The property at 3838 Lucas Valley Road is not far from the longtime location of the filmmaker’s Skywalker Ranch. (The Lucas Valley name is not related to the director.) Marin County gave the okay for the new vineyard in June, although the nearby NIMBYs allege that the issuing was inappropriate.

In addition to film and media, Lucas, like his fellow area filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has been in the winemaking game for decades, founding Skywalker Vineyards in 1991 with an initial four acres. The new Lucas Valley spot represents a huge expansion of his enterprise—the winery site says the director’s holdings previously were just 28 acres in all.