Marin Independent Journal Editorial 3/5/2012
Director George Lucas
UNANIMOUS VOTES are not easy to come by from the Marin County Planning Commission. But not every project comes with the track record that San Anselmo resident George Lucas has here when it comes to development.
The commission's 7-0 vote approving the filmmaker's controversial plan to build a large digital production studio on his Grady Ranch property in Lucas Valley was a fitting endorsement of a project that should live up to its promises, just as Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and Big Rock projects have done.
Not only does the studio complex promise to bring several hundred jobs, but Lucas has gone above and beyond the performance of most developers in terms of managing traffic, restoration and preservation of open lands and resources and building a large project mostly hidden from sight.
The commission decided, after hearing testimony last week from about three dozen speakers, that the plan was in line with a master plan approved more than a decade ago.
Lucas plans to build a production center with film stages, screening rooms, a café, guest quarters, a gym and a wine cave on part of the 240-acre ranch. He pledges to preserve 187 acres of open space and restore the Miller, Grady and Landmark creeks that run through the property.
Some neighbors warned of possible traffic problems, night lighting and loss of ranch land. Their contention that the development plans were being rushed through without adequate public review
ignore the fact that his proposal is actually less than the master plan for the property that was approved by the county more than a decade ago. Lucas unveiled his current plans more than a year ago. That's hardly a rush job.
Many people spoke in support of Lucas, citing his 30-year record of being a "good neighbor" whose projects have not created the traffic problems that some worried about before they were built.
Lucas received support from the Marin Economic Forum, a private-public organization that analyzes the economic effects of proposed plans and projects. Robert Eyler, representing the forum, said the project will create 690 jobs, including construction jobs. The Lucas empire's expansion will create jobs in other parts of Marin's economy.
"You're really talking about a job creator for Marin County," Eyler told the Planning Commission.
It's not a surprise that concerns were raised about this large project. That's how things work here. That's not a bad thing. It means such projects receive plenty of scrutiny.
But Lucas is more than a famous filmmaker. He has an impressive record as a local developer who lives up to his promises, cares about protecting and enhancing the surrounding environment and has earned a reputation as a good neighbor.
When you combine all that with the boost to Marin's economy, this is a plan that deserved the Planning Commission's unanimous approval.