Plans to sell property, look for site ‘in communities that see us as a creative asset’
SAN RAFAEL — Filmmaker George Lucas has dropped plans to build a 270,000-square-foot digital movie studio northwest of San Rafael and will take the project elsewhere, his real estate company announced this afternoon.
“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,” according to a Skywalker Properties letter sent by email to people interested in the Grady Ranch project along Lucas Valley Road. “We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough. Marin is a bedroom community and is committed to building subdivisions, not business.”
Skywalker Properties plans to sell the Grady Ranch property and look elsewhere quickly for a new studio site, because projects planned to be made in the new studio in 2013 already are in production, according to the letter.
“We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities,” the letter said.
[For the county Board of Supervisors response to the Skywalker Properties action, see "County urges Lucas to continue Grady Ranch project," April 12.]
The master plan for movie production facilities on Mr. Lucas’ Grady Ranch and Big Rock properties in west Marin were approved in 1996. In 2009 Skywalker Properties submitted a Grady Ranch precise development plan for a production building and supplemental environmental impact report related to changes from the master plan, which included a $50 million to $70 million restoration of Miller and Grady creeks through and along the property.
The county Planning Commission unanimously approved the Grady Ranch precise plan and updated environmental review on Feb. 27. The Lucas Valley Estate Homeowners Association appealed that approval to the county Board of Supervisors. [See "Neighbors appeal Lucas project approval," March 14.]
Another complication for the project came just days before the April 3 county Board of Supervisors hearing on the appeal. A comment letter from regulatory agencies faulted some of the methodology in the studies included in the project supplemental environmental impact report on the effects of planned extensive earth moving and restoring Grady and Miller creeks. The supervisors tabled consideration of the appeal so that county legal and planning staff could look into the ramifications of those comments on project approval. [See "Grady Ranch decision delayed on regulator concerns," April 3.]
“This is a devastating loss,” said Cynthia Murray, president and chief executive officer of North Bay Leadership Council, a Sonoma-Marin business advocacy group that had its origins in earlier contested Lucas projects. “Losing the Geroge Lucas seal of approval of being in Marin County will have a detrimental effect for many years. … They’ve been essential to the Marin story about coming here and growing here.”
San Rafael Chamber CEO Rick Wells said in a statement the business group was eager to help revive the Grady Ranch project.
“If there is any chance we can do something to save this project, we should work together to do so immediately,” he wrote. “Without question, it has a far-reaching and significant impact on the health of our economy and our entire county.”
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