George Lucas is right to build affordable housing in his wealthy California neighborhood.

George Lucas just royally pissed off a bunch of his wealthy neighbors...

...and became my new hero.

I mean, he was my old hero too. Have you seen the Battle of Hoth?


You see, Lucas' movie studio, Skywalker Ranch, is located in Marin County, California, which is among the wealthiest communities in the country.

Rich people love bikes, sunsets and far-away views of San Francisco.

When Lucas first moved his studio to the wealthy suburban county in 1978, many of his neighbors initially feared he would build this:

Though why anyone wouldn't want this in their backyard is beyond me.

But he actually built this:

There's a studio there. You can see it if you squint. Kinda.

A few years back, Lucas decided the studio was due for an expansion. Since he had gone to such great lengths to preserve the quiet, scenic qualities of the community before, he figured it would be no problem.

But his wealthy neighbors freaked out anyway.

They were afraid the expansion would spoil their precious views despite Lucas' long track record of not messing with anyone's view. And they were afraid a business expansion would disturb the character of the neighborhood.

The community fought the project for years, until 2012, when Lucas finally gave in and decided to sell the land to a developer who would keep the neighborhood residential like his neighbors requested.

But he would make sure that the people who moved into the new development would be the sorts of folks priced out of the otherwise wealthy community, writing in a letter:

"We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin."

And well, you can pretty much guess what happened next:

Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times:

“It's inciting class warfare," said Carolyn Lenert, head of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.
...
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.' "

And at first, it played out the usual way. There was the community board uproar, and political hurdles, and endless red tape. One of his community partners backed out when the cost got too high. And the project was tabled.

But here's the thing. George Lucas is a billionaire.


Tissues, according to George Lucas.

Which means George Lucas can basically do whatever George Lucas wants.

So he's building it anyway. With his own money.

Elahe Izadi, Washington Post:

Now, two years after that project stalled, Lucas has decided to build the affordable housing and pay for it all himself.

“We've got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people," Lucas said through his lawyer Gary Giacomini.

Which, excuse me for gushing, is a move so baller that it almost makes up for Episodes I-III.*

*Just kidding, George Lucas. You can do no wrong and I love you.

As plainly awesome as this is, this sort of thing is obviously not a long-term solution for housing discrimination.

We can't wait for altruistic billionaires to swoop in on their white horses and integrate our communities with their magic money wands.

So listen, rich people.

Of course, sir. We'll build the windmills somewhere else so you don't have to look at them from your porch. Right away.

I'm hip to your game.

You see, I grew up among you, in a well-off, bucolic, suburban community not far from New York City.

Our school mascot: Increasey, The Property Tax Bill.

And I speak your language.

I know there was once a time when "I don't want a black family, or a Korean family, or the janitor and his kids moving in on my street," was a thing you could say to a bunch of other rich people without shame or embarrassment. Heck, in some circles, you might even get a medal.

Thanks, Dave, for saying what we were all thinking.

But you can't say that anymore. People will look at you funny. With good reason.

So now you whisper things.

Things like "It's class warfare." Or "The schools will get overcrowded." Or "There'll be too much traffic downtown." Or "It's a fire hazard." Or "It is located in an undesirable location."

And sure, some people do legitimately worry about traffic, or development, or putting stress on the schools with the best of intentions.

But too often, these whispers are code for, "We don't want those people living next door."

Which is why I say this — as lovingly as I can:

Get your act together.

Poor and middle-class people want the same things you want: decent schools and safety for their kids, and a calm, peaceful life. They're not scary. They don't bite. And having them in the neighborhood probably won't trash your property values.

"I believe in equality of opportunity, just not equality of outcome."

...is a thing I've heard you all say over and over again — usually to convince yourselves that your successes are all thanks to your own plucky, nose-to-the-grindstone grit, as opposed to the natural result of having enormous advantages from the moment you were born.

Not talking about you, Ron. I know your dad was an East Despairtown coal miner and your mom was a sack of potatoes. I'm talking about the rest of you. You know who you are.

And weirdly, I actually agree.

No one can guarantee that everyone will strike it rich in life (though I believe we can do much, much more to ensure that people who don't make it big don't simply fall through the cracks). Someone, inevitably, is going to cross the finish line first. But everyone — whether their parents are rich, poor, or otherwise — should start from the same starting line.

That means having access to good schools. And resources in your community to help you pursue your interests and develop your skills. And living side by side with successful people who can mentor you. I had that growing up. The kids who live in George Lucas' hometown in Marin have that. Kids only a few miles away in places like Oakland, or Bridgeport, Connecticut, or East New York too often do not.

Making it easier for them to move in next door is one of the best ways to ensure that they do.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared

One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

True
Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

Keep Reading Show less