A lot of people are saying how sad they are that Lucasfilm is withdrawing its Grady Ranch studio proposal from Marin County. But no one can be sadder than George Lucas. Marin County is his home and Grady Ranch was to be the culmination of a decades-old dream of a famed filmmaker approaching his 70s.

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Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Grady Ranch saga is that it demonstrates clearly that even the genius and sensitivity of a George Lucas are no match for California's out-of-control and unaccountable regulatory bureaucracy. Elected officials like to act like they make the decisions in California. But it is really the unelected regulatory agencies. Grady Ranch crashed because of an eleventh hour regional regulatory assault on the project as it was headed for approval by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Now, Marin, most likely the state of California and quite possibly the country has lost a world-class project. (Just stop and absorb for a moment that Mr. Lucas was willing to spend $50 million just to restore a degraded creek. That's likely gone forever.)

It is said that some environmental activists and Lucas Valley residents are celebrating. But they may not be so happy one, five or 10 years from now when the county is struggling to fund basic services because of a declining business and residential tax base. Indeed, it's impossible to understate the negative impacts that losing Grady Ranch will have on Marin communities, on a state government that can't seem to understand why it's finances continue to deteriorate (this is a clue), and potentially on our global competitiveness. What business would enthusiastically try to locate in Marin County, the North Bay or California after hearing that the likes of George Lucas was turned away?

It is heartening to see business, government and community leaders stepping forward to try to save Grady Ranch. Their efforts are laudable. But unfortunately they are not in control. The California Environmental Quality Act is in control, which means the law can be used by anyone to stop any project for any reason at any time.

Grady Ranch is only the most egregious example of CEQA abuse. The 1970 law is used aggressively every day to stop or delay everything from shopping centers to hospitals to vineyards to mom and pop businesses. There is no way to know how many businesses California has lost due to the costs and delays associated with CEQA. But combined they surely amount to many Grady ranches.

Until this madness stops and leaders say enough is enough, the economic future of the North Bay and California will continue to suffer serious and, sadly, unnecessary harm....Brad Bollinger is the editor and associate publisher of the North Bay Business Journal. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com.