Lucasfilm abandons controversial studio project

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A company owned by filmmaker George Lucas said Tuesday it has abandoned plans to build a big digital production studio on historic farmland in Marin County, citing opposition from neighbors worried about its impact on the environment.

Lucasfilm Ltd., the force behind the Star Wars movies, said it pulled the plug on the Grady Ranch project and planned to construct new facilities elsewhere.

“We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire,” the company said in a statement.

Lucasfilm said it hopes to sell the land in Lucas Valley to a developer interested in building housing for low-income residents.

The Marin County planning commission unanimously approved the studio project in February. Backers said it would generate jobs and revenue for the local economy.

But plans for the 270,000-square-foot complex prompted fierce opposition from homeowners who said it would generate noise, traffic and environmental damage on the pristine countryside about a half-mile north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“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,” Lucasfilm said in the statement.

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 statement said. “We are sure that it was made with consideration for what is best for Lucasfilm.”

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