George Lucas ... accused of "inciting class warfare" Photo: Getty Images
George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, is in a bitter row over plans to sell off land near his Skywalker Ranch for low-income housing.
The director infuriated some of his neighbours in the rural enclave of Marin County, north of San Francisco, who accused him of "inciting class warfare" and "spite".
It was the latest twist in a decades-long battle over Lucas's attempts to build a film studio on the land. He had wanted to erect a 269,000 sq foot complex, including two 85ft towers, a 7000sq foot outdoor sound stage, and underground parking for 200 cars.
His company, Lucasfilms, said the move would create hundreds of highly-paid jobs, but opponents objected to noise and light pollution, arguing it would "destroy our dark starry skies".
The land itself is in Lucas Valley, which was already called that when the filmmaker set up Skywalker Ranch in 1978.
Marin County postponed the studio application last month, causing Lucas to admit defeat. In a statement, Lucasfilms cited the "level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners".
It said: "We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough. Movies are waiting to be made, and we must move forward. We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire."
The company is now working with a group that wants to build 300 low-income housing apartments on the land.
Marin County is one of the richest areas in the US with an average home price of nearly $US1 million. Many residents, including business leaders, had supported the plan for a studio and attacked Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which opposed it.
Lucas said his decision to sell the land for affordable housing was not intended to be retribution. In an email to the New York Times he said he just wanted to "do something good for Marin".
The Daily Telegraph, London