George Lucas in ranch wars

 

Los Angeles

Not all of the epic battles that George Lucas has created take place in a galaxy far, far away. Nor, necessarily, a long time ago. In Marin County, just north of San Francisco, the Star Wars creator is at war with some of America's wealthiest Nimbys over plans to expand his extensive commercial property empire.

At issue is his proposed development of Grady Ranch, a leafy estate of several hundred acres where the film-maker is eager to create a swanky film studio. Under plans submitted to local authorities, he will construct a 260,000 square foot facility. Car parking for several hundred employees is all underground, while a small hill will be artificially constructed to screen the 85ft-tall building from nearby properties.

Yet all the green-washing in the world is apparently wasted on fellow residents of Marin County, a stupendously smart piece of commuter belt just north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. On Wednesday, dozens of angry locals piled into Dixie Elementary School to voice opposition to the project and form a lobbying organisation to fight the development.

Complaints ranged from concerns about increased noise to a growth in traffic. Many voiced anger at the county's planning department's decision to give outline permission for the project. The film-maker's supporters argue that he has for years championed the preservation of the region. Lucas has already donated 800 acres of Grady Ranch to the county Open Space District. He has also protected more than 5,000 acres at four other properties he has purchased nearby: Big Rock, Loma Alta, McGuire and Skywalker ranches.

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