Jul 25, 2014

Solano County Eyes Lucasfilm's Grady Ranch Project

Solano County cities are hoping to lure the film company to their turf.

Solano County Eyes Lucasfilm's Grady Ranch Project

At the same time Lucasfilm withdrew all permit applications for it’s proposed digital studio known as Grady Ranch, other cities are busy luring the movie company to build in Solano County.

Despite an influx of support from Marin County residents urging filmmaker George Lucas to reconsider building Grady Ranch in Lucas Valley, the company announced that their decision is final. Since then, a petition on change.org has collected 720 signatures as of April 24, suggesting Mare Island in Vallejo as the best place for the project. Other locations that have caused a buzz include proposed location for the failed Dixon Downs racetrack in Dixon, and Benicia.

“I'm not at liberty to discuss the locations that we are considering right now,” Lucasfilm Communications Director Lynn Hale said in an email.

In an act that crushed all hopes that Lucas would reconsider his Marin County retreat, Lucasfilm recently withdrew all permits from state and federal regulatory agencies that would apply to creek restoration, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

Skywalker Properties Ltd. shocked Marin earlier this month for the 269,000-square-foot studio after meeting resistance from neighbors.

"We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities," the statement said. So the question remains, where will they take their business?

Kristina Naughton believes that Vallejo would be perfect for the facility due to its central location and community of artists who would embrace a film studio.

“There are also many historic buildings that could be utilized in film making,” she commented on the petition website. “Lucasfilm coming here would be just the boost Vallejo needs for our struggling economy.”

Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan told the Fairfield Daily Republic that the project “would put any community that landed it on the international map.”

A representative from a production company contacted Dixon's Economic Development Director Mark Heckey to ask to be put in contact with the owners of the land where the racetrack project Dixon Downs would have gone if it would have been approved by voters.

Heckey however told the Fairfield Daily Republic that the person who called him was not able to say which production company wanted to come to Dixon.

Lucasfilm was discussing possible locations with at least two other agencies when Benicia recently fell out of the running, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald.

The . Soon after, a group of neighbors from the Lucas Valley Estates claiming that the Grady Ranch plans were not subject to full notice and review, is inconsistent with zoning requirements in the residential area and that the data provided by planners failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Marin Board of Supervisors to review the state and federal regulatory process and any legal concerns when Lucas withdrew the application.

Grady Ranch is one of three properties owned by Lucas. The Skywalker and Big Rock ranches are located nearby the proposed Grady Ranch land. As the company grew, LucasFilm relocated the majority of their employees from Marin to San Francisco's Presidio due to the belief that Marin would not support the size of their facilities in a residential area.

Many of the project’s supporters believe Grady Ranch would bolster economic growth by providing construction jobs now and high-paying technical jobs in the long term.

The Marin Economic Forum estimates that the withdrawal will result in a total of $216 million in lost revenue. The project would've created 690 jobs, with 463 jobs for the two-year construction phase.

Since the decision, Marin residents submitted several letters supporting the project.

“We’re very grateful for all the support we received,” Hale said. “But we’re moving on.”

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