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George Lucas museum looks to San Francisco — but L.A. would welcome it too

With the planned Chicago site for his new museum now in jeopardy, George Lucas has turned his attention elsewhere for his $700-million passion project — and San Francisco has once again returned to the spotlight.

A spokeswoman for San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin confirmed that the city and museum representatives are in early discussions about a site on Treasure Island, a destination in San Francisco Bay famous for a naval base.

Los Angeles is also trying to stay in the game, with Mayor Eric Garcetti saying that Lucas' project would find a good home in the heart of the movie industry.

The museum "will inspire creativity wherever it lands, and we would welcome it in Los Angeles," said Garcetti in a statement Monday. 

"Star Wars" director Lucas had previously considered San Francisco as the home for his Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, but abandoned the idea after plans for a site at the Presidio ran into obstacles with the trust that oversees the park.  

In 2014, he officially chose Chicago for his museum, with the intent of building it on a site proposed by local officials — the city's lakefront museum campus that also serves as home to the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum.

Lucas' project comes with an estimated price tag of $700 million. The completed museum would explore the art of visual storytelling through painting, illustrations, comics and movie-related exhibitions.

But in recent months, the project has become mired in a lawsuit seeking to halt the development. The suit was filed in 2014 by Friends of the Parks, a nonprofit preservation group.

In an attempt at compromise, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a location at McCormick Place East, which is also near the shore of Lake Michigan.

But the two sides have so far failed to reach an agreement, prompting strong words from Lucas' wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native.

"From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special-interest group," Hobson said in a statement earlier this month. "We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago. If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone."

The Lucas museum didn't respond to a request for comment. The possibility of bringing the project back to San Francisco would be seen as a local victory, since Lucas has long been associated with Northern California.

"There are a series of meetings that will be taking place in the days and weeks to come and we will see how it all shakes out," Peskin told the Chicago Tribune on Monday.

It is also unclear if Lucas is actively considering L.A. as a home for the museum.

In 2014, Garcetti reached out to Lucas in a letter expressing interest in bringing the museum to Southern California. Garcetti tentatively proposed the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, located near USC, where Lucas studied film in the 1960s.

The plan was to tear down the arena, which opened in 1959, and build the museum on the site. 

The location would have put the new venue close to Exposition Park, which contains the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center.

In his statement Monday, Garcetti said that "The Force is strong in Los Angeles, and our city is deeply invested in the legacy of George Lucas: He is a major benefactor of one of our best film schools, his biggest fans are here, and our city is the cultural capital of the world."

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