Filmmaker George Lucas has pulled the plug on building a
new film studio and floated another option for the Northern
California site–affordable housing.
After years of trying to develop a new facility in Marin
County, Lucas recently dropped his application to build on
a property known as Grady Ranch, citing a long battle with
“The level of bitterness and anger expressed by
the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even
if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary
approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive
relationship with our neighbors,” said a letter
announcing his plans.
But, that’s not the end of the story.
Lucas, the man behind “Star Wars,” has
unveiled part two.
“We hope we will be able to find a developer
who will be interested in low-income housing since it is
scarce in Marin,” said the letter. “If
everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land
then we are hoping that people who need it the most will
While some have seen the move as a shot at the
protesting neighbors, the idea has advanced a step
The Marin Community Foundation has stepped in to work
with Lucasfilm to explore options to develop the site with
“We are thrilled that George Lucas is seeing
this as an opportunity to address one of the most critical
issues in Marin County—making it possible for a
broad range of individuals and families to afford to live
in Marin,” said Thomas Peters, president and CEO
of the Foundation. “In many instances, this is
housing for people who work in the county but
can’t afford to live here and for people who grew
up here but who now cannot afford safe, secure housing in
their home county. And we have always paid particular
attention to the need for affordable housing by the
county’s expanding senior
The Foundation’s work has included providing
loans and grants to nonprofit housing developers.
While stressing that planning is in the very early
stages, Peters said they hope to move quickly. Lucas is
providing access to extensive engineering studies done on
the land. “It’s not an insignificant
gift,” he said, noting the detailed and expensive
reports have been done on the water tables, topography, and
other technical aspects of the property.
“We want to use that while the shelf life is
current,” he said.
The team is working on formulating a process to move
with deliberate speed and to get the most creative ideas
for the sweeping site.
Marin County is one of the most expensive housing
markets in the nation. The median price for an existing
single-family home was $672,620 in March compared with the
statewide median of $291,080.
It is also one of the most expensive markets to rent an
apartment. The “housing wage,” an
estimate of the full-time hourly wage a household must earn
in order to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment at fair
market rent while spending no more than 30 percent of
income on housing costs, is a soaring $36.63 in the county,
according the “Out of Reach” report from
the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
In comparison, the state housing wage is lower
but still a high $26.02, meaning a minimum-wage earner
would have to work 130 hours per week to afford a decent
two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent.
It looks like the Foundation and Lucasfilm will now move
toward working with affordable housing developers. Perhaps,
the force will be behind them in developing the