The empire strikes back: George Lucas proposes new affordable housing complex he'll finance alone

The latest plans are seen by some as payback for community opposition to his past real estate ventures.

April 27, 2015 |
The empire strikes back: George Lucas proposes new affordable housing complex he'll finance alone

Filmmaker George Lucas plans to build an affordable housing community on his Grady Ranch property, and will finance it himself. Image: Wikimedia Commons

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas has submitted plans to the Marin County (Calif.) Development Agency to build 224 units of affordable workforce and senior housing on 52 acres at Grady Ranch.

This proposal is the latest broadside in an ongoing battle between Lucas and residents of this affluent neighborhood who, in the past, have blocked Lucas’s efforts to expand his production company, Lucasfilms. Two years years ago, Lucas also encountered opposition to his plan to sell land at Grady Ranch to a developer for affordable housing.

Lucas, who has owned land in Marin County since 1978 (that property is called Skywalker Ranch), said he would build the housing himself, but that project lost its financial backing in 2013. The Marin Independent Journal reported at the time that the costs for the project would fall somewhere between $120 million and $150 million.

Now, Lucas—whom Forbes estimates is worth $5.1 billion—says he will finance 100% of the housing project, according to Gary Giacomini, former county supervisor and an attorney for Skywalker Properties.

The initial reactions to Lucas’s latest proposal have been mixed, with one local supervisor worrying about the “cumulative impact” of a project that large on the community. Other supervisors see the proposal as an opportunity to make a dent in the county’s shortage of affordable housing. Thomas Peters, CEO of the Marin Community Foundation, called Lucas’ plan an “extraordinary offer” that underscores the filmmaker’s commitment to the housing needs of the vibrant workforce that drives the region’s vitality. (Ironically, the Foundation was the financial backer that bailed on Lucas’s housing plans two years ago.)

Lucas’s proposal call for 120 two- and three-bedroom workforce rental homes in one four-story cluster and two two-story clusters. There would also be 104 one- and two-bedroom residences for seniors in a four-story cluster, according to the Independent Journal. Zoning at Grady Ranch allows for up to 324 homes at this site, which is where Lucas had originally intended to expand his studio facilities.

The architect for this project is Robert W. Hayes of Sausalito, and the project is being coordinated and managed by PEP Housing of Petaluma, which developed Toussin Senior Apartments, an affordable complex that Hayes had designed.

Applicants for the workforce housing need to be earning less than 80% of the market’s median household income. The seniors applying for housing need to fall within 30% and 60% of that median. Quoting Census estimates, the Washington Post reports that 7.7% of the county’s residences live below its $90,839 median income level.

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