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Petition urges Lucasfilm to bring giant facility to troubled city

Advocates from Vallejo, Calif., are arguing that Lucasfilm should locate its giant new production facility there. But George Lucas' company is being coy about its plans.

George Lucas lost a battle to build a new technology production complex in Marin County, Calif., just down the road from his existing Skywalker Ranch property, seen here. Now, residents of Vallejo, Calif., are urging Lucasfilm to come there. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

"Hey, George Lucas: Come on and cross the Bay. The water's just fine."

That appears to be the message from hundreds of people who have signed an online petition urging the "Star Wars" filmmaker to locate his new 260,000-square-foot technical production facility at Vallejo, Calif.'s Mare Island.

The petition comes after Lucasfilm decided to abandon long-held plans to build the new facility on a piece of property it owned in bucolic Marin County, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco and across San Pablo Bay from Vallejo.

That decision was the result of Lucasfilm's inability to get local residents to agree to let the company build the giant facility at the property known as Grady Ranch, nestled in rolling green hills northwest of San Rafael, Calif. The company said earlier this month that after years of attempting to get locals on board, it was moving on because it needs to get the production complex up and running by next year.

Lucasfilm also maintains a giant facility--known as the Letterman Digital Arts Center, which houses the company's administrative headquarters as well as Industrial Light & Magic--in San Francisco.

Now, the Vallejo petition suggests that Lucasfilm would benefit from being in Vallejo, a city that recently struggled with bankruptcy. "Mare Island is an historically significant place with lots of room for development and many historic buildings ready for renovation," the petition reads. "With strong community support, easy access from all parts of the Bay Area, and a lovely setting, this would make a great location for this company."

Lucasfilm spokesperson Lynne Hale told CNET by email, "We have been courted by a multitude of communities wanting Lucasfilm to build in their cities. It has been wonderful to see the outpouring of support from the public as well as government officials who appreciate George Lucas as a developer and see the company as a creative asset to their community." But Hale would not name any of the company's suitors.

However, according to the Mercury News, city officials in Benecia, Calif., just north of Vallejo, have heard that the film company may already have substantial talks underway with other communities. "'I made contact with Lucasfilm, Ltd.," acting Benicia economic development manager Mario Giuliani told the Mercury News. "'They are already in (discussions) with at least two other potential locations and not taking in other suitors at this point.'"

Update (Monday, 7:25 p.m. PT): This story now includes comment from Lucasfilm.