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2012 in Review: Big News Stories of the Year

Before we start 2013, look back on the biggest news stories of the past year.

Terrapin Crossroads Moves to San Rafael

After meeting resistance from Fairfax neighbors, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and his wife decided to move their plans for a music venue to San Rafael's Canal neighborhood. The restaurant opened early this year in the vacated Seafood Peddler location. 

The Canal location features a dining room that serves sustainable, local food and a music venue, called The Grate Room, for performances and concerts.

The plan was pulled from Fairfax town officials consideration by the Leshes in November after aggressive opposition from neighbors. 

George Lucas Pulls the Plug on Grady Ranch

After several public meetings on the merits of its proposed digital studio in Lucas Valley, Skywalker Properties Ltd. stunned Marin in April when it decided to withdraw its application for the project.

"The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors," the company stated in a press release.

The 270,000-square-foot production studio, known as Grady Ranch, was approved by the Marin County Planning Commission in February.Lucas Valley neighbors appealed the decision soon after. Delays with regulatory permits from the state and the federal government, paired with local opposition prompted filmmaker George Lucas to withdraw the entire project and change the property in to affordable housing. 

Marin Community Foundation is currently seeking developers for senior housing, workforce housing and family housing on the location.

Returning the property for housing development would not be a new idea. Before the Lucasfilm proposal for Grady Ranch, the county planned for the area and the adjacent community to be housing, according to Brian Crawford, director of the Community Development Agency.

Read our topic page on Grady Ranch for more coverage. 

Max Wade Accused of Mill Valley Shooting, Lamborghini Heist

The most unusual crime story of the year were surrounding local teen Max Wade, who is accused of a drive-by shooting in Mill Valley and of stealing celebrity chef Guy Fieri's yellow Lamborghini. The 18-year-old San Rafael defendant faces two counts of attempted murder and shooting into an occupied pickup truck, as well as commercial burglary charges for a car heist that occurred in 2011. 

Wade is accused of driving up on a motorcycle and shooting at teen couple Landon Wahlstrom and Eva Dedier as they sat in a Dodge pickup truck outside a home on Evergreen and Ethel avenues in Mill Valley on April 13. The motorcyclist was dressed in black with his face shielded by a black helmet with a dark-tinted visor.

Wade’s commercial burglary charge came from the alleged theft of Fieri's $200,000 bright yellow 2008 Lamborghini Spyder Gallardo on March 8, 2011. in that heist, the thief rappelled down from the roof of British Motor Car Distributors dealership on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, entered through a window, then drove away in the car, according to San Francisco police.

Investigators trailed Wade after he texted Dedier three days after the Mill Valley shooting about whether she wanted to pick up her fake ID. He asked her if she wanted him to pick her up in the Lamborghini, according to Dedier's testimony in the preliminary hearing.

Detectives found the sports car in the Richmond storage unit near where they arrested Wade on April 29. Along with the car, they also discovered fake ID cards for California, Florida and New York, local police scanner coordinates, cellphone-jamming equipment, a dismantled AKA-47 assault weapon, a shotgun and a full San Francisco Police Department uniform with a badge and duty belt.

The media frenzy around the defendant continued when unknown individuals attempted to break into the Marin County Juvenile Hall to free Wade in August. During the attempted break in, an unknown number of suspects were outside the south wall of the housing facility using a sledge hammer to force entry by slamming at a 10-foot high window. The window belonged to Wade's cell.

Wade could face as many as 30 years in prison if he is convicted. He plead not guilty to all charges. 

Read our topic page on the Max Wade case for more coverage. 

San Rafael Pacifics' First Season at Albert Field

Although the City Council approved the contract for a minor league baseball team to play in Albert Field in September 2011, this summer marked their first season. 

The 2012 season ended with the Pacifics taking home the division title. Along the way, the team had several memorable events. Bill "Spaceman" Lee, the 65-year-old former Boston Red Sox great, broke his own record for the oldest pitcher to win a professional baseball game. The team also featured a start by Maui knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida, the baseball Hall-of-Fame honoree known internationally as the Knuckle Princess.

Approximately 32,000 tickets were sold throughout the season. The average game sold 760 seats with the average ticket price of $11, team owner Mike Shapiro told Patch. With 42 scheduled home games, Centerfield saw more than $350,000 from tickets, excluding revenue from concessions, merchandise and sponsorships. 

The City Council agreed to extend the team's contract for three more years in November. In response to concerns raised by neighbors during their inaugural season, the contract includes earlier game starts, new improvements to the field, a traffic plan to reduce jaywalking on Andersen Drive and the use of a new PA system that will reduce the amount of noise for neighbors. The city expects to net around $46,000 in revenue for the next three years from the deal. 

A lawsuit, filed by the Albert Park Neighborhood Association, saying that the contract violated the park’s deed of restrictions that bar commercial use of the property for more than one week and that the proposal should be subject to environmental studies is still pending. 

Read our topics page on the Pacifics baseball team for more coverage. 

Disney Buys Lucasfilm

Disney announced in October that it will pay $4 billion to purchase Marin-based Lucasfilm, Ltd. from filmmaker George Lucas.

The company also announced that Star Wars: Episode 7 is expected to be released in 2015 and they plan to release one film every two to three years after that. With the last movie, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005, the franchise has earned $4.4 billion to date, and continued global demand has made the series one of the world’s top product brands and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011.

The deal followed Disney's other recent acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel. In addition to Star Wars, the acquisition includes rights to the Indiana Jones franchise, Lucasfilm’s post production businesses, Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound and a suite of entertainment technologies.

Lucas will still be involved in the creative process for future Star Wars films and retain ownership of his Marin ranches. Lucasfilm co-chair Kathleen Kennedy will become the new president and report to Walt Disney Studios.

Council Approved San Rafael Airport's Soccer Complex

After seven years in the planning process, the San Rafael Airport's plan to build a recreation complex on its grounds was approved by the City Council in December. 

The 39-foot-tall, 85,700-square-feet recreation complex will have indoor and two outdoor soccer fields as well as spectator seating, offices, food and beverage service, meetings rooms and a two-lane bridge deck.

The project faced stiff opposition from Santa Venetia neighbors, who worried about noise and lights from night games, environmental impacts on the surrounding habitat and safety of soccer fields in close proximity to the airport's runway.

The council approved the plan with a 3-1 vote, with Councilman Damon Connolly opposed, and construction will begin in July 2013. 

Read our San Rafael Airport topic page to see more coverage. 

What was your favorite story from the last year? Tell us in the comments. 

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Michael December 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I think one of the biggest stories of 2012 was the unfortunate defeat of the effort to stop the SMART train boondoggle. Unfortunately way too many voters and taxpayers showed that they just don't care if our elected official lie to us. We get the government we choose to accept
Kevin Moore December 28, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I agree. SMART, the iron horse that is a Trojan horse. It isn't so bad that we are paying hundreds of millions of dollars that will not significantly reduce traffic on 101, it's the fact that SMART is being used to build hundreds of new housing units around the stations. 5 story apartment buildings in a 3 story zoned area for the Civic Center Station in Terra Linda. Population growth in Marin is nearly stagnant. Very little growth from 2001 to 2012 in Sonoma, yet ABAG and MTC are ramping up for a huge population boom. The jobs are just not growing to support a larger population. This will employ developers and their crews, then we will have more people without jobs. Building hosing in Stockton and Sacramento did not improve the sustainable job market in those areas.
Kevin Moore December 28, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Bike riders in Sonoma are finding out SMART is eating up the resources that might have gone to bike path projects. Once the Airport soccer complex is built, we will see which groups of parents want to pay to rent the fields. (No one seems to know the hourly rental rate.) I suspect they will be rented for adult soccer games on nights and weekends. A bigger story than Max Wade are the 3 shootings in San Rafael this fall. Violence and gang activity are going up.
JACKIE SMITH January 08, 2013 at 03:14 PM
The Most Idiotic Subject In SR This Year Was The City Councils Hatred For Cigarette Smokers!

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