Using the Force

George Lucas strikes back by promising low-income housing, but does the project location even make sense? By Kelly O'Mara

| June 13, 2012

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Dr. Thomas Peters, president of the Marin Community Foundation, says the proposal is in very early stages, but that he has been in "close communication" with Lucas and developers.

While no application has been submitted to the county, the ranch is being considered as a possibility for senior housing.

The remote location poses a couple of challenges, however. Most low-income housing is built along transit corridors or near public transit, with some exceptions, said Peters. Additionally, infrastructure would have to be extended out Lucas Valley to the site. Financially, it simply may not make sense to build a low-income project there.

"This is a maximum challenge to see if we can do this," said Peters.

It's also unclear what the property can be zoned for and how much of the preserved open space has been permanently deed-restricted against future development.

"There's an idea on the table," said Adams. "This is very, very early in the process."

And the proposal may come up against neighborhood opposition.

The Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which disbanded five years ago and quickly reformed last fall, opposed the Grady Ranch development, but has no position yet about the low-income housing.

The Lucas Valley Homeowners Association, a different subdivision further in from Grady Ranch, had no position on the project, but mistakenly received a number of angry emails and phone calls blaming them for Lucas' decision, said office manager Janice Cunningham. The Lucas Valley HOA has an election for officers and dues, said King, while the Lucas Valley Estates association is just a handful of volunteers who represented their own views.

While community opinions are mixed about Marin's most famous filmmaker, residents are also quick to point out all the good he has done.

In San Anselmo, Lucas has built himself a large house after buying up—at very high prices and generous agreements—a number of the properties around him. Neighbors received small Christmas thank-you's for putting up with construction, but some are still not fans.

Down the street, Lucas paid for the undergrounding of utilities along Red Hill Avenue, bought and rebuilt the beloved Amazing Grace music store to stop them from being evicted, and maintains the median at the entrance to town. In downtown San Anselmo, he owns a building that has been empty for the better part of a year, but which he hopes to turn into a town center and park for the community.

"Everything he does is good," said San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce president Connie Rodgers. "I hope we've all learned a lesson from the Grady Ranch ordeal."

Even Lucas seems to acknowledge that his good works may not be fully appreciated. In the letter that announced the end of Grady Ranch, he bitingly says the community just doesn't want his open space preservation, creek restoration or the services provided the county by his on-site fire truck and emergency personnel.

"Maybe," said the letter, "we're ahead of our time."

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