George Lucas is best known as the man behind “Star Wars,” but for many people it will be his incredible passion for philanthropy that will define his legacy.
Having already pledged to give away half of his vast fortune when he dies, Lucas doubled down by handing over nearly all of the billions he made when he sold the rights to “Star Wars” to Disney. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Unlike other rich people, Lucas wasn’t content to just give money – he wanted to make a tangible difference in people’s lives directly.
Lucas had spent years unsuccessfully trying to develop an expansion to his production company’s studio in California’s wealthy Marin County. The socialites who lived there fought him tooth-and-nail, and he eventually decided to drop the project. Instead, he announced plans to build affordable housing on the property – and foot the bill.
“We’ve got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people.”
The plan would put hundreds of poor or lower middle-class people into great homes in a safe, affluent area.
The 224-unit affordable housing complex would go on Grady Ranch, where his once-planned studio expansion would have been, according to a plan being submitted to the Marin County Development Agency this week, the Contra Costa Times reported. The plan, which would allow development on 52 acres, includes workforce and senior residences, as well as a community center, pool and an orchard.
Income requirements could be set so eligible residents had to make less than 80 percent of the area’s median income, the paper reported. The median household income for Marin County is $90,839, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
He is also considering setting aside certain houses for teachers and local employees who are particularly vulnerable to housing costs but are absolutely vital to any community.
In a sadly unsurprising turn, the rich residents of Marin county have not taken the news well. They apparently believe that their expensive houses entitle them to be separated as far as possible from the lower classes.
When the plan was first mentioned by Lucas in 2012, Lucas and county officials were inundated with hate mail from residents suggesting allowing poor people to live in the county will ruin it for everyone:
Carl Fricke, a board member of the Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which represents houses nearest to the Lucas property, said: “We got letters saying, ‘You guys are going to get what you deserve. You’re going to bring drug dealers, all this crime and lowlife in here.’ ”
Some neighbors even accused Lucas of doing this just to hurt them over bitterness about his studio project being cancelled. It’s an idea that Lucas denies. (Although helping hundreds of families get homes as a form of revenge would still be pretty great.)
After all, every year wasted fighting with neighbors means another spike in the cost of housing. The affordability crisis has been shown to be disastrous for the economy, and is often considered one of the number one contributors to wealth inequality in the United States. If all of your money is going to just keeping a roof over your family’s heads, you probably aren’t going out and spending money at businesses or paying for vital, but costly services like healthcare.
Lucas has clearly had enough of waiting. Since 2012, Lucas has grown tired of trying to garner support for the proposal, and now plans to just do it himself at the cost of $200 million. In this way, he can pretty much get things going without outside help. Thankfully, even with his massive donations to charity, he still has plenty of money to finance the thing by himself – but don’t expect his neighbors to be pleased.
And here you thought you couldn’t be any more excited about seeing the new Star Wars film.