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Lucas seeking affordable homes for Grady Ranch

MARIN COUNTY - Filmmaker George Lucas hopes to build 224 units of affordable workforce and senior housing on the same Grady Ranch property where he had once planned a film studio, a proposal he withdrew after years of opposition.

Working with Lucas’ Skywalker Properties, the nonprofit Petaluma Ecumenical Properties Housing submitted a pre-application to the Marin County Community Development Agency on April 15 and requested that planners begin a preliminary review of conceptual development plans.

The “Star Wars” creator plans to pay for the entire project himself, without any state or federal grants, on his property in west Marin County off Lucas Valley Road.

Lucas has been quoted as saying if he can’t do what he wants to with the property, “he wants to do something that will benefit the community.”

The development would serve as a combination of workforce and senior housing rented at below-market rates. The proposal calls for 120 two- and three-bedroom workforce residences in one four-story cluster and two other two-story clusters on the site, plus 104 one- and two- bedroom residences for seniors in a four-story cluster.

The proposal would include a community center, a pool, terraced gardens, an orchard and small farm, a barn, interior roadways with two bridges, and a Golden Gate Transit District bus stop. The proposal limits development to a 52-acre tract of the 1,039-acre ranch, 800 acres of which have already been dedicated to open space.

According to PEP Executive Director Mary Stompe, pending approval of the project, construction would begin in 2018 and be completed the following year. Estimated cost is $100 million to $150 million.

As to why Lucas is funding the project himself, Stompe said it is because he is “very passionate about community and affordable housing.”

Four years ago, Skywalker Properties sought approval to build a 270,000-square-foot digital technology film production studio with offices for 340 employees at the same Grady Ranch location. The film production studio would have contained offices, guest suites, one outdoor stage and two indoor stages with related film production facilities.

Skywalker Properties decided to withdraw the application in 2012. Another proposal for housing on the site was withdrawn in 2013.

Within the next few months, PEP Housing plans to submit a detailed proposal to amend the 1996 Master Plan for the property. Once it is submitted, the Master Plan Amendment application would be reviewed by county staff. The county’s planning process includes public engagement and careful analysis of environmental effects that could result from the project. After review, the proposal would be presented to the Marin County Board of Supervisors. There is no estimate on how long the planning process will take.

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