Vision for Grady Ranch affordable housing dims

David Briggs
The Marin Community Foundation has discontinued plans to help fund affordable housing on George Lucas' Grady Ranch.
06/20/2013

Visions of a large affordable housing complex at Grady Ranch dimmed this week when the Marin Community Foundation announced it ended a partnership with filmmaker George Lucas due to uncertain funding. 

The plans sprung up in May 2012 after Mr. Lucas ended a decades-long battle to build a major digital-production facility at the site. They would have helped fill an affordable housing shortage for the county, providing 230 acres of land for development.

A spokesman for Skywalker Properties, Tom Forster, said his team will press on with the project, exploring options with about 20 development agencies the foundation culled this spring. 

“These types of projects tend to move slowly, and they go through a lot of public meetings and environmental studies and so on. It will take several years at minimum. As you know, development of anything in Marin is challenging,” Mr. Forster said. 

The parting was amicable: Mr. Forster cited “great respect” for the Marin Community Foundation and its president and CEO, Thomas Peters. Mr. Peters in turn called Mr. Lucas “an absolute gentleman with regard to our analysis.” The problem, he said, was money. 

Realizing the dream of a more than 200-unit apartment-style complex for low to moderate-income families and seniors, with trails and common green areas, could have cost $150 million, Mr. Peters said. 

The foundation, which acts as a financial facilitator of affordable-housing projects rather than as a physical developer of them, could only have provided a nickel on a dollar. “Getting that other 95 cents was cumulatively a very low probability,” Mr. Peters said. 

Most affordable-housing projects have between 15 and 20 layers of funding from different sources, according to Mr. Peters. The monetary barriers he foresaw included strained state and federal budgets and last year’s dissolution of statewide redevelopment agencies.