The Jedi Knight Strikes Back

First, a little memory test. Remember our post of last year, about George Lucas of Star Wars fame having a confrontation with Marin County over his effort to enlarge his Lucasfilm movie studio up there? Sure you do. How can one forget a confrontation between a famous Jedi Knight and a mob of rich NIMBYs? But if you don’t  remember, click here

The end of that story was that Lucas, bloodied in that confrontation, was seen retreating from his movie-studio plan, but vowing to return in an effort to build some — gasp! shudder! — low cost housing on his land. In Marin County?! The  area where a median home goes for $650,000? The same.

Today, April 1, 2013, at p. A1 (that’s the front page), the Los Angeles Times brings us the dispatch that Lucas, good as his word, is now making an effort to actually build those dwellings, working together with a local foundation interested in building affordable housing units. Egad! Click here

You have to understand, folks, that Marin County is — in the words of the L.A. Times — “California’s wealthiest county [that] has always brought its ‘green’ lifestyle and liberal social leanings into conflict. No Bay Area county has more protected open space — or fewer workers who can afford to live anywhere near their jobs.” It’s the sort of place where God would live if He could only afford it.

And the land-use permitting process being what it is, particularly in California, and even more particularly in Marin County, that means hearings before county land-use authorities. The LA Times gives us only hints and glimpses of the elitist nonsense that is part and parcel of these proceedings (like “we mustn’t let those poor folks live near a freeway, because there the air is polluted by car exhaust fumes,” and “we can’t let those poor folks live away from freeways because their transportation needs will go unmet,” etc.). So take our word for it, they sound like a bunch of characters from Myra McFadden satire.

To get away from self-parody, do read something serious about that place and its inhabitants. We recommend a wonderful book by Bernard J. Frieden, entitled The Environmental Protection Hustle (MIT Press 1979).  The late Professor Frieden was at the time Chairman of the MIT planning department. His book is short, lucid, readable and richly supported by facts provided or referred to in the endnotes. We recommend you read it if you have any interest in modern land-use.

In the meantime, back in Marin County, county planners say that the subject land is suitable for around 240 units, “although,” says the Times, “no plans for construction have been submitted.” Maybe this summer.

Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Stay tuned.


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