I was combing through SF Gate and found this article with regard to George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, suing over his property known as Skywalker Ranch. He is suing in Marin County Superior Court to quiet title.
Skywalker Ranch is pretty fascinating. You can reach it by driving north out of San Francisco on 101 and just take the “Lucas Valley Road” exit west toward the coast. Lucas Valley Road is a fun drive toward Tomales Bay. Ten months out of the year, it is beautiful out there. Tomales Bay is also oyster heaven. If you ever come to Napa, do yourself a favor and go oyster tasting in Tomales Bay. Forest Gump knew shrimp. You gotta do the same with oysters. Wow.
According to Wikipedia, Skywalker Ranch is the corporate offices for Lucasfilm. The headquarters of the Lucas companies is in the Presidio. The Skywalker Ranch land encompasses 6,100 acres (according to SFGate) and only 15 acres have been developed. Neighbors have fought Mr. Lucas tooth and nail to prevent him from developing a larger studio on the property. He even had a hard time building a vineyard at his nearby property.
The recent lawsuit filed in Marin County Superior Court (CIV2002732) is a quiet title action when there is a property line discrepancy. The George Lucas lawsuit names the Hooper and Waller families and their testate and intestate successors. Fascinatingly enough, this is a typical type of case to quiet title through adverse possession. Richards Law has pursued and obtained judgments for adverse possession in a similar manner.
Adverse possession is legally articulated as a quiet title lawsuit.
The elements of adverse possession are: 1)possession of real property by a trespasser, 2) hostile against the true owner (without permission), 3)actual and exclusive possession for a period of five or more years, 4) open and notorious use and 5) payment of taxes.
These elements just rattle off the tongue like a law school fugue inspired by a Milan Kundera novel, “open and notorious hostility to the true owner, a mere trespasser can gain title to property so long as they pay the taxes.” It is just beautiful law.
Adverse possession is controversial though. Some people equate to stealing land or land grabbing. It made the happy hours at lawschool (Louie’s) fun.
The truth is that adverse possession fits well with the general policy that all land should be used or have a purpose. If some abandons property for over 5 years and does not notice someone open and notoriously using it, maybe they are not a good steward of the land. This would be especially true if they never bothered to pay the taxes.
If Mr. Lucas’ case is one of adverse possession, all he has to do is go through the formality of notifying the owners and/or their heirs by some means including but not limited to publication. Then Mr. Lucas just needs to prove to the court in a default hearing that they have been occupying this land for over 5 years and paying the taxes.
Who knows? Maybe Skywalker Ranch will now be 6,101 acres in the near future.
Regardless, dealing with archaic deeds and surveys makes real estate law fun. If you have an adverse possession or prescriptive easement question, give Richards Law a call.