[caption id="attachment_50930" align="alignright" width="358" caption="Filmmaker and Marin resident George Lucas wanted to build this 123,000-square-foot office building and digital movie studio on his Grady Ranch property off Lucas Valley Road near San Rafael. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]
SAN RAFAEL -- County of Marin officials have been busy trying to convince filmmaker George Lucas to continue pursuing his Grady Ranch digital media studio, and local business groups have launched a new joint effort to help keep and attract employers like him.
However, a Lucasfilm spokeswoman said Thursday the decision to withdraw the project was final.
Mr. Lucas surprised the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday,when they received a couple hours' notice his representatives would publicly announced the withdrawal of an application to build a 270,000-square-foot studio on property along Lucas Valley Road northwest of San Rafael, according to board President Steve Kinsey.
He said the board at its April 3 meeting likely would have voted to deny an appeal from a neighborhood group against Planning Commission project approval just over a month before, had not Mr. Lucas' organization asked the board to delay a decision pending further review of a 50-page letter from the Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association's attorney on potential legal pitfalls under the California Environmental Quality Act.
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After hearing of Mr. Lucas' decision to take the project elsewhere, the supervisors sprang into action Tuesday and Wednesday to offer solutions to Mr. Lucas' concerns, including the extraordinary proposal to stand beside him in any CEQA lawsuit over project approval, according to Supervisor Kinsey.
"Given what is at stake here, it is worth it to put a stake in the ground," he said. "Even if it comes out the legal costs would run in the millions of dollars on the outside, there would be an even larger lifetime benefit and ancillary benefits to the community."
Led by Supervisor Susan Adams, whose district includes Lucas Valley, the board repeatedly met with Mr. Lucas' real estate company, Skywalker Properties, about concerns and solutions. They contacted the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to clarify a March 29 comment letter from a joint resource agency review body on concerns about the revised grading and stream-restoration plans in the project. The supervisors contacted the Las Gallinas Sanitation District to clarify comments made by a district official to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and received a letter of support. Board members even worked with the Marin Municipal Water District over supplying recycled water, addressing concerns over water use.
A master plan for a studio complex on Grady Ranch and production offices on adjacent Big Rock Ranch project was approved in 1996--'97. The Planning Commission unanimously approved a precise development plan and supplemental environmental impact report on Feb. 27. Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which represents 174 residents near the Grady project site, appealed the decision in early March.
Skywalker Properties released a letter Tuesday afternoon announcing the withdrawal of the application for the Grady Ranch studio and noting plans to sell the property, perhaps for housing.
“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 the letter. “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.”