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Gibson writes: "Until George Lucas and his fellow multi-billionaires find it in their hearts to build affordable housing for everyone who needs it, we must hold our elected officials accountable if they continue to side with their Wall Street campaign donors over the 99%."

Portrait, George Lucas. (photo: LucasFilm)
Portrait, George Lucas. (photo: LucasFilm)



Going Where No Billionaire Has Gone Before

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

15 May 12


Reader Supported News | Perspective

 

he world needs more billionaires like George Lucas.

George Lucas, worth $3.2 billion as of 2011, may have ruined his reputation with his fans by creating Jar Jar Binks and making a travesty of a film like Episode 1, but his latest move may be the finest moment of his career.

At first, Lucas intended to use his property at Old Grady Ranch in Marin County, California, to build a 300,000 square-foot movie studio. The plan, according to Lucas, would generate $300 million in economic activity for the area. His neighbors resisted him every step of the way, insisting that the constant construction and extra traffic would be a blight to the community.

Now, the filmmaker has abandoned his efforts, and instead will build affordable housing for low-income families and elderly people living on fixed incomes. Here's an excerpt from his official statement:

"We plan to sell the Grady property expecting that the land will revert back to its original use for residential housing. We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low-income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that the people who need it most will benefit."

There are literally five vacant buildings for every homeless person in America. And the latest US Census data shows that half of America is either poor or low-income. After the housing bubble burst and the recession hit, homelessness jumped 32% between April 2008 and April 2009, undoubtedly exacerbated by all the new foreclosures. And, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 40% of those facing eviction from foreclosures are renters. An additional seven million low-income households are at risk of foreclosure. Despite all this, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank has been accused of fraudulently foreclosing on thousands of veterans, haughtily defended his bank's practice of risky Wall Street speculative trading that sent a whopping $2 billion down the drain.

If anything has changed in the last ten years since the first Star Wars prequel was made and today, it's been a greater redistribution of wealth from the bottom 90% to the top 0.1% like Lucas. And while the billionaires at Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase are fraudulently foreclosing on needy families, one billionaire filmmaker is making housing more accessible for people who need it the most.

While Lucas' gesture is a good one, it shows the complete lack of attention being paid to low-income families by elected officials, whose job is supposedly to uphold the rights of their constituents when they're being victimized by predatory banking, lending, and deceptively fraudulent mortgages. If President Obama was bold enough to stand up to the Jamie Dimons of the world, he would declare housing to be a human right, make more low-income housing a national priority, and give every American adult who owns a mortgage a $100,000 principal reduction to keep mortgages more in line with the actual value of their home.

Poverty has gone up just as dramatically as the wealth amassed by the 1% and the .01% like George Lucas. And the amount of available low-income housing for needy families has gone down just as dramatically as the value of millions of homes owned by those victimized by the reckless greed of Wall Street executives like Jamie Dimon.

Until George Lucas and his fellow multi-billionaires find it in their hearts to build affordable housing for everyone who needs it, we must hold our elected officials accountable if they continue to side with their Wall Street campaign donors over the 99%.


Carl Gibson, 25, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut. You can contact Carl at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and listen to his online radio talk show, Swag The Dog, at blogtalkradio.com/swag-the-dog.

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+40 # NanFan 2012-05-15 17:34
This is a truly altruistic move by Lucas, but I guarantee the elites of Marin County will not like this any better, if not worse, than a ginormous movie theater being built.

I know. I lived there.

This low-income housing area, unfortunately, will be viewed as another blight on "the neighborhood," not the caring act of one of their own who has given so much to the community already.

Go get 'em, George. Ya just never know!

N.
 
 
-31 # barbaratodish 2012-05-15 19:20
Carl Gibson, I know you are only 25 years old, but really your suggestion to give $100,000. ia principal reduction to holders of mortgages, would, if implemented, start some sort of riot, etc. Those who lived in apartments, those who lived within their means istead of speculating that they could afford to buy a home, would revolt at such unfairness, and giving money, or the equivalent of money, would be making anyone who struggled to live simly, look foolish, and latly it would provide the motivation for everyone to make outrageous purchases of homes where they could care less about paying what they owed, because they would all be epecting "bail outs" just like the banksters! Who would be left to earn their way?
 
 
+4 # BradFromSalem 2012-05-16 07:23
Love the sarcasm! Love that no one gets it!
 
 
+6 # Capn Canard 2012-05-16 10:33
barbaratodish, I doubt that most people are that stupid... though pure selfishness and greed is what the Capitalists bank on.
 
 
+1 # X Dane 2012-05-17 23:59
Unfortunately you are not the only one condemning people who are loosing their homes. A number of people were tricked into buying a house they REALLY could not afford. Too many scam artists are working in the loan approving business, and there are many people who are very ignorant about financial matters. And tgat spells disaster.

Also many, many people lost their home, when they lost their job and insurance. I thought you knew, that an awful lot of people have been out of work for so long, some more than a year.

I can't even comprehend,how they survive.

I have always paid all my bills, I have worked hard, and I have also been fortunate, a lot of people have not.

But I do NOT get upset if some, who needs help gets it. I am glad, for when more people do better and get back on their feet, WE ALL BENEFIT
 
 
+32 # PGreen 2012-05-15 20:06
"If President Obama was bold enough to stand up to the Jamie Dimons of the world, he would declare housing to be a human right, make more low-income housing a national priority, and give every American adult who owns a mortgage a $100,000 principal reduction to keep mortgages more in line with the actual value of their home."
Best proposal I've heard in a while.
 
 
0 # X Dane 2012-05-18 00:05
PGreen, He is President.....N OT God. The banks deal with mortgages,Presi dents don't.
 
 
+25 # SoCalStar 2012-05-15 22:42
Has no one noticed that Lucas is not doing anything for low income people? He is proposing to SELL HIS UNUSABLE LAND. He notes that a developer who is crazy enough to think (s)he can get such a project through the Marin regulatory agencies any better than Lucas is preferable, as such a project would be a slap in the face to residents who opposed him. But any buyer will do. He will sell. Period.
 
 
+6 # ericsongs 2012-05-16 06:59
ABSOLUTELY!
In the northeast, such statements of intent are well known thinly veiled threats.
Developers that come against agency objections frequently use the "low income housing" card to coerce planning board members into accepting the corporate form of blight versus the imaginary "welfare queen with 7 kids and 2 Cadillac land yachts" bullshit.
 
 
+11 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-15 22:47
According to Gibson, "There are literally five vacant buildings for every homeless person in America."

Lucas "hope [h]e will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low-income housing."

Since more than adequate housing apparently already exists for all homeless people, wouldn't it make more sense to keep pushing for making it available to people who need it rather than praising someone who might be able to ameliorate a small fraction of the problem at the expense of undeveloped habitat, which needs preservation in coastal California?
 
 
+6 # bingers 2012-05-16 06:13
Sure, if the owners would go along with that. Not bloody likely.
 
 
-6 # robbeygay 2012-05-15 22:53
Whilst I agree with this basic article, I must comment that Obama couldn't possibly "declare housing a human right". Or most certainly not the 'American Dream' value house at least, otherwise the rest of the world would expect 'human rights ODA' for housing their poor?
That's why all USA governments have only allowed constitutionall y human right 'persuit of happiness' translated as an 'American Dream' you may all dream, it isn't basic right o9ther than to persue it.
Furthermore it is a question of 'expectation' to house in a "nicer house" than you can afford. And it is in fact a very magnanimour Lucas jesture, because he has a few billion from the movie tickets and dvd's bought by those same people who borrowed more than they could pay back to be housed in a mansion rather than a humpy shelter? I think?
 
 
-19 # SoCalStar 2012-05-15 23:24
Clinton already "declare(d) housing a human right" and the sub-prime housing fiasco of 2008 was the result. He declared that lenders MUST approve poor people for home mortgages regardless of the fact that they DID NOT really qualify, i.e. couldn't make the payments for long. And we all saw where that led...straight from Clinton and the bleeding heart liberals who wanted a home for everyone. Owning a home a 'basic right?' Hardly.
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2012-05-16 19:12
Quoting SoCalStar:
Clinton already "declare(d) housing a human right" and the sub-prime housing fiasco of 2008 was the result. He declared that lenders MUST approve poor people for home mortgages regardless of the fact that they DID NOT really qualify, i.e. couldn't make the payments for long. And we all saw where that led...straight from Clinton and the bleeding heart liberals who wanted a home for everyone. Owning a home a 'basic right?' Hardly.

Y'know, I never hear any constructive suggestions from naysayers like you and your ilk, just a seeming desire to denigrate anybody or anything who tries to do the right thing, whatever their motives.
And I don't think that the "basic rights" declaration is applied to "Home ownership", which is not for everybody but only that everyone has a right to a roof over their head (like medical care and education) with some hope of staying under it for as long as they care to, along with a basic level of maintenance on their part at the cost of a sustainable and reasonable percentage of their income .
You want to leave the increasing volume of foreclosed and crumbling former properties to a new class of corporate slumlords?
And your use of the "Bleeding heart liberal" label seems to put you in the "Let 'em eat shit" attitude (a.k.a."Let them live in tented villages out past the 'burbs"!).
Nice, medieval attitude pal!
 
 
-2 # SoCalStar 2012-05-16 21:41
Did you actually READ my post before firing off an angry reply? I suggest you read it again. I am certainly not a naysayer. I clicked on Lucas' statement and read it, not just what Carl Gibson wrote ABOUT what he thought it said. What Lucas said was very different from Gibson's interpretation.

In my opinion a 'bleeding heart liberal' does not understand economics, but instead usually wants people who actually have a middle class job to pay more and more to support those who cannot or will not find jobs (yes, there are both). Neither R's or D's seem to want to stop giving subsidies to their donors on Wall Street and the mega-banks. There is a limit to how many people can receive government subsidies to make ends meet. To REALLY help people earn enough to be able to afford home ownership, both Democrats and Republicans need to STOP the kind of obstructionist policies such as those Lucas experienced over 25 years of trying to build his movie set on his ranch. How many GOOD JOBS would that whole project have brought to the area? How many GOOD JOBS are being forced into other countries by both D's and R's? I am for clearing the way enough for businesses to create jobs so people in the USA are not being forced more and more into 3rd world living conditions such as the tent cities that are springing up near Sacramento, CA. I understand that MOST PEOPLE DO NOT WANT A HAND OUT, BUT INSTEAD A HAND UP.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2012-05-17 11:16
Quoting SoCalStar:
Did you actually READ my post before firing off an angry reply? I suggest you read it again. I am certainly not a naysayer. I clicked on Lucas' statement and read it, not just what Carl Gibson wrote ABOUT what he thought it said. What Lucas said was very different from Gibson's interpretation.

In my opinion a 'bleeding heart liberal' does not understand economics, but instead usually wants people who actually have a middle class job to pay more and more to support those who cannot or will not find jobs (yes, there are both). Neither R's or D's seem to want to stop giving subsidies to their donors on Wall Street and the mega-banks. There is a limit to how many people can receive government subsidies to make ends meet. To REALLY help people earn enough to be able to afford home ownership, both Democrats and Republicans need to STOP the kind of obstructionist policies such as those Lucas experienced over 25 years of trying to build his movie set on his ranch. How many GOOD JOBS would that whole project have brought to the area? How many GOOD JOBS are being forced into other countries by both D's and R's? I am for clearing the way enough for businesses to create jobs so people in the USA are not being forced more and more into 3rd world living conditions such as the tent cities that are springing up near Sacramento, CA. I understand that MOST PEOPLE DO NOT WANT A HAND OUT, BUT INSTEAD A HAND UP.

I rest my case.
 
 
0 # Feral Dogz 2012-05-17 11:59
name="SoCalStar "]Clinton already "declare(d) housing a human right" and the sub-prime housing fiasco of 2008 was the result. He declared that lenders MUST approve poor people for home mortgages regardless of the fact that they DID NOT really qualify, i.e. couldn't make the payments for long. And we all saw where that led...straight from Clinton and the bleeding heart liberals who wanted a home for everyone. Owning a home a 'basic right?' Hardly.

Taking real estate ownership out of the hands of bankers and developers and putting into the hands of residents was the intent of low interest, low entry threshold mortgages.The lack of oversight and regulation allowed the practice of "house flipping" with "no income, no assets" mortgages to inflate market values to the point of collapse.

George Lucas has seen the handwriting on the wall and is now seeking to dump what looks like a bad investment, while giving the story a positive PR spin along with a thumb to his nose for his 1% neighbors. How is this good for anyone but him?
 
 
+5 # robbeygay 2012-05-15 22:55
PS I also think Lucas is hoping to offload huis land when realty is otherwise unprofitable. Not so benevolent he wants developer/inves tors to do the buildings and State Treasury the headworks & Services I suppose.
 
 
+21 # reiverpacific 2012-05-15 23:05
Well at least somebody is TRYING!
I had to reflect recently, watching the Wells Fargo PGA golf tournament -a big publicity, big prize coup for them as it was won by a very popular pro' as his first tour victory (I have to confess to watching and enjoying it's end and playoff), how the hell they can put these huge events on, boast of what they are "doing for local charities" and concurrently be such a huge part of the ongoing housing and homeless crisis and evictions of their con games. It kinda left me speechless and conflicted.
As a forcefully retired (by the depression) Architect who constantly advocated for and tried to propose and design low-income housing projects that people could actually buy on workable terms (and won a couple of awards for this in Appalachia), in sustainably designed and pleasant areas, then saw several good projects die under the joint and clumsy-greedy hands of the banks, state bureaucracies and local but uncomprehending planning commissions, I can only applaud anybody who is trying to put their own funds into this endeavor.
And it could so easily be done as this article hints at -I'd love to be part of it too! Think of how many people this kind of thinking and action could put to work who in turn could afford to benefit by buying a property, a bit like old Henry Ford's original Model T for the masses concept. It's that simple but obviously unacceptable to the owner-class and it's media.
 
 
-1 # SoCalStar 2012-05-15 23:37
"Well at least somebody is TRYING!"
Who is trying what???
Lucas is TRYING to sell his land.
Marin Co. Planning Commission is TRYING to keep out everyone except developers of private residences for the elite, well-to-do class. Bureaucrats there say the population is 'too white.' Are they TRYING to bus in new residents from Oakland?
 
 
0 # robbeygay 2012-05-16 02:00
they can do it part taxdeduction part advertising budget, and all a big snow job that's how Riverpacific.

Your effort to start low cost housing by design an admirable challenge. But has to be CCP or PAP to do singapore style, burn out the campong squatters and build HDB on socialist style buy back and insured secure rules far too simple for Capitalists who see only end profits for that 1% and Corporate Americ.
Gone are the Henry Fords.
 
 
+6 # ericsongs 2012-05-16 05:41
As an architect, do you believe it would be possible to empower the people with the ability to construct their own dwellings with a somewhat evolutionary design structure and lightweight materials?
I am suggesting a concept that removes the corporations from the equation to the fullest possible extent. Perhaps, in the same manner that the people now have the ability to assemble and use solar panels to provide an electric power source, thereby eliminating the need to feed the vast network of corporations that suck at the homeowner's teat.
Perhaps, a concept of construction utilizing geometric strength versus monumental heft to obtain a sturdy and functional habitat. Thoughts?
 
 
+4 # dkonstruction 2012-05-16 10:48
Quoting ericsongs:
As an architect, do you believe it would be possible to empower the people with the ability to construct their own dwellings with a somewhat evolutionary design structure and lightweight materials?


ericsongs, as someone that has worked for housing non-profits for nearly 25 years i think that the idea of involving local people (including future residents) in rehab/new construction in their communities is something that should heavily promoted nation-wide.

In some ways, it has elements of the Habitat for Humanity model although i think this can be expanded so that it includes more than just volunteer labor from future residents but is also used to provide jobs (and job training) to those in need. This should also include training in the new green technologies and green building practices that are rapidly becoming part of the standard building codes across the nation and that every contractor and trades person is going to have to know in order to be employable in the building trades.

Given the number of vacant buildings as well as those that need energy efficiency upgrades this type of WPA-like program could train and employ millions of people. Combine this with the development/red evelopment of the nation's infrastructure (including transportation with such things as high speed rail) and the development of a clean energy, manufacture/pro duction-based economy will at least put us on the right path.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2012-05-16 18:55
Absolutely and thanks for the question. I have worked with two successful developers in Ky and S. Ohio) who provided a sweat-equity price reduction or credit at several levels, to any prospective buyer who wished to commit to using their own resources, skills and/or labor in finishing and even partly constructing their house within code requirements, allowing the builders to build more cheaply, rapidly, structurally soundly, and the owner to finish the residence as they wished -within a local context.
They were satisfying projects for me, as I got to come up with a good design aesthetic but consult with each prospective owner to arrive at something we both could be happy with.
I've also designed a few houses for Habitat F.H. but find their "Must be Christian" and credit/job history requirements restrictive and modeled on corporate exclusionary guidelines.
I must point out that "low-income" does not always connote ownership but there is no reason why renters shouldn't have good aesthetics involving natural and electric light, heat, space distribution and color balance, elements of cultivated and natural greenery integrated with perimeter hardscaping/dec ks/balconies, to provide them with a sense of the natural world being close.
There is much more but I don't see why this can't be accomplished nationwide and have written to Pres' Ob' with some proposals, suggesting some federal funding, to create jobs and housing concurrently.
 
 
+1 # Capn Canard 2012-05-16 10:30
I tend to agree but there is always suspicion of the motives of the uber wealthy. I believe that problems of money are the heart of what ails us all and it is always a disaster ready to explode. The whole fiasco with the banking feels like an invented theft, but more remarkably is how many of us are hypnotized by this corrupt system of money that far too many people will throw the baby under the carriage. Do you think that's too severe? Personally I believe that unless we remake the system completely then more of the same will happen with impunity. re: the 2008 bailout, the bankers haven't changed their behavior at all. Expect more of the same.
 
 
0 # debraslone 2012-05-15 23:12
It's funny, really; Marin refused his development plans for the studio, apparently repeatedly, so he pulled out and now will sell it to low/moderate income housing developers, since it's really zoned for residential use. It will be good for that part of Marin but they won't like it.
 
 
+4 # bingers 2012-05-16 06:11
Obama can't declare it a right any more than I can, but in that vein, it was Teddy Roosevelt who first said it should be a right, along with pay high enough to school your kids and take a yearly vacation.

Since him, with a detour around the Eisenhower administration, screwing the poor and middle class has to further enrich the already bloated rich has been part and parcel of Republican policy.

And, it should be noted, Obama is hardly a socialist, he's more like the reincarnation of Eisenhower.
 
 
+1 # Eva Salzman 2012-05-16 06:41
Yeah, but one has to be a little cynical about the man trying to offload otherwise unusable land! Would be more impressed if he actually spent some of his own moolah to get the things built and ensure exactly those who needed such housing could move in, helping find people, moving them in, taking the time to see it through which would indicate reasons for plan were genuine.
 
 
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-05-16 10:39
If "housing is a human right" and there are 5 vacant buildings for every homeless person then we whould be demanding that the government use eminent domain to take over these properties and hire local labor (especially the local unemployed and homeless) to do high quality energy efficient rehabilitations of the properties and wipe out homelessness (instead of simply feeding a the government/non- profit industrial complex who then manages the ongoing problem without ever solving it....the domestic equivalent of permanent wars) as well as providing jobs and training for those in need and to transtion the economy as a whole to one based on skilled (living wage) "green collar" jobs.

The idea that some billionaire (whatever one thinks of his films doesn't matter) has declared that he is going to SELL a property (hopefully) to a developer who will build affordable housing is the same old "market-based" solution that does nothing to further the goal of transforming housing from a simply another commodity into a right.

We have to be proposing "solutions" that actually end the problem instead of simply "managing" it such that the state and non-profits wind up being willing accomplises in pertpetuating a social problem (the perpetuation of which becomes an ongoing source of jobs and revenue for both) instead of eliminating the problem.
 
 
0 # Garrett Connelly 2012-05-16 11:32
How to build a $5 per square foot house with a flycatcher compost toilet that pays the person to live in itself with reduced maintenance http://www.ferrocement.com/Shelter-2010/post-1_5-2010.html
 
 
0 # SoCalStar 2012-05-16 17:38
Thanks for posting this VERY useful info on ferrocement construction.
 
 
+2 # Feral Dogz 2012-05-16 12:10
Now, the filmmaker has abandoned his efforts, and instead will build affordable housing for low-income families and elderly people living on fixed incomes. Here's an excerpt from his official statement:

"We plan to sell the Grady property expecting that the land will revert back to its original use for residential housing. We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low-income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that the people who need it most will benefit."

Carl, have you read what you have written? The first paragraph above states that Lucas will build affordable housing. The second paragraph states that he intends to sell to a developer, who he hopes will build affordable housing.
Two very different courses of action. The words "affordable housing" are anathema to property owners in places like Marin and are uttered as a threat, not as an indication of social conscience.

The burst real estate bubble has left a surplus of housing. More construction is not what is needed. Local govts. could seize unoccupied, bank owned foreclosures by eminent domain at current (low) market value and offer them on a rent-to-own basis to recently evicted tenants. This could be financed by a bond issue backed by the properties.
 
 
0 # Feral Dogz 2012-05-16 12:11
Taking real estate ownership out of the hands of bankers and developers and putting into the hands of residents was the intent of low interest, low entry threshold mortgages.The lack of oversight and regulation allowed the practice of "house flipping" with "no income, no assets" mortgages to inflate market values to the point of collapse.

George Lucas has seen the handwriting on the wall and is now seeking to dump what looks like a bad investment, while giving the story a positive PR spin along with a thumb to his nose for his 1% neighbors. How is this good for anyone but him?
 
 
0 # SoCalStar 2012-05-16 17:46
@Feral Dogz Lucas's statement is really a slap at those neighbors who prevented construction of his studio complex. Kind of like Marie Antoinette saying to the poor "let them eat cake" referring to a low quality flour that cannot sustain life due to its low protein. Only here, he is wanting to get back at the rich neighbors who hold the reins of the planning commission hoping that a wealthy developer might shove Oakland's needy down rich Marin throats. He makes no pretense of his bitterness. Some have interpreted his statement with an altruistic intent that I just don't see.
 
 
0 # cypress72 2012-06-11 11:26
Another "class warfare" article. George Lucas is a film maker. He did not steal from the poor. His fortune was not "transferred" from the bottom 90% into his pocket. He made popular movies that hundreds of millions of people worldwide paid to see. No one held a gun to their heads to go and see Star Wars of his other films. Just face it, the Left hates anyone who is rich except the likes of Sen Diane Feinstein, the Kennedy's, Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John Kerry and on and on. Are they building homes for low income people??? NOT !!!
 

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