NOVATO -- The Marin Community Foundation today said it is seeking a developer to build affordable housing on filmmaker George Lucas's Grady Ranch, a property north of San Rafael once pegged for a sizable state-of-the-art digital movie studio.

In a first step toward the project, the foundation announced a request for developer qualifications. County planning officials told foundation staff that the project site could be eligible to build 200 to 300 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors, families or both, according to the philanthropic organization.

"Whether for retired seniors or working families, this effort will help address a significant need for affordable housing in Marin," said Dr. Thomas Peters, foundation president and CEO, in the announcement.

Mr. Lucas withdrew plans for the 270,000-square-foot Lucasfilm studio in April after decades of intense opposition from some area residents. In a public letter announcing the withdrawal that some interpreted as an affront to those opponents, Mr. Lucas's real estate company suggested that the site instead be used for low-income housing.

The foundation, a charitable powerhouse in the county, announced in May that the housing plan was indeed moving forward, and it was spearheading the effort. It received land and engineering studies conducted through the studio project process, using them to determine the feasibility of affordable housing at the site. That data will be made available to a chosen developer, allowing what Dr. Peters called a "head start" on construction.

The request for qualifications concerns a portion on the southeastern corner of Grady Ranch, accessible from Lucas Valley Road and located three miles west of Highway 101. Mr. Lucas deeded approximately 80 percent of the 1,039-acre ranch to the Marin County Open Space District in 2002, according to the foundation.

The foundation is purposefully setting broad parameters for the potential development and is open to "ideas for a creative mix of individual and family units."

Submissions from prospective developers are due Jan. 18 to or Marin Community Foundation, Attention: Grady Ranch, Office of the President, 5 Hamilton Landing, Ste. 200, Novato, 94949.