Marin Community Foundation pulls out of Grady Ranch housing effort

SAN RAFAEL — The Marin Community Foundation will no longer be involved in a proposal to construct a 100 percent affordable housing project at the site of filmmaker George Lucas’s Grady Ranch outside San Rafael, citing uncertainties in obtaining federal and state financing necessary to bring the project to fruition, according to a joint announcement today by the foundation and Mr. Lucas’s real estate company.[poll id="74"]

The company, Skywalker Properties, will continue to discuss the proposal with the approximately 20 interested developers previously identified by the foundation, said Tom Forster, spokesman for the company.

"There's a huge need in our county and elsewhere for affordable, workforce housing," he said.

The foundation had been enlisted to assist in selecting a developer and determining a funding scheme for the project, which could entail more than 200 affordable housing units at a cost between $120 million and $150 million, said Dr. Thomas Peters, the foundation's chief executive.

Yet with increased difficulty in obtaining federal and state funding, along with the complete elimination of redevelopment dollars, Dr. Peters said that the financing picture for affordable housing as a whole has become far more challenging in recent years.

"Even for a modest-sized project, it can be 10, 15 different sources put together into one package," he said. "In my view, it wasn't certain we'd get a complete funding package from these traditional funding sources."

The land in question involves 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.

Two creeks run through the property, which were among specific construction challenges determined in site studies conducted under the foundation, Dr. Peters said.

"The very features that make it so beautiful also make it so complicated for a project like this," he said.

The foundation first issued a request for interested developers last December, offering extensive land and engineering studies that had already been conducted when the site was pegged for a 270,000-square-foot digital movie studio.

Mr. Lucas withdrew his plans to develop a studio at the site in April of last year, following years of intense opposition from area residents. Skywalker Properties soon announced plans to pursue the development of affordable housing at the location.

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