Artoo Him Too

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George Lucas rockets into affordable housing

Visionary filmmaker George Lucas has rocketed back from his self-created galaxy of long ago and far away to contribute to the dimension of affordable housing right here on earth: specifically, on his expansive property in Marin County, California, north of San Francisco.

Several years ago, Lucas wanted to expand his film production holdings into a state-of-the-art studio on property known as Grady Ranch, near his home. But the nearby Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association opposed the plan, even though Lucas agreed to devote 95 percent of the acreage to conservation. Still, the well-heeled owners didn’t like the idea of additional traffic, construction noise and possible harm to the environment. The name Lucas Valley,incidentally, was attached to the area long before
the Star Wars magnate moved in.

Faced with this general opposition, Lucas retreated and said he would instead sell to a
developer who would dedicate the land to affordable housing, under the auspices of the Marin Community Foundation. Lower income housing was, and is, desperately needed amidst the county’s ever-soaring land prices.

But the homeowners didn’t like that idea any better, and the project lay dormant. In the meantime, Lucas sold off Lucasfilm, Limited, which included production facilities, Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects unit, to the Walt Disney Company in 2012.

Now, Lucas is back to his affordable housing plan, only this time with more muscle behind it: He’s taking on the entire funding himself.

Lucas’s attorney Gary Giacomini told the local CBS affiliate, “He said, ‘We’ve got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people.’”

The project calls for 224 units aimed at the local workforce, including teachers, police officers, firefighters and others whose salary doesn’t match housing costs. A community center is planned with a pool and gardens. Those earning less than 80 percent of Marin’s median income of $90,000-plus will qualify, with background and reference checks from former landlords. Senior renters are expected to range between 30 and 60 percent of average income.

Still, as reported by Samantha Cowan in the digital and lifestyle magazine, well-to-do potential neighbors are still putting up resistance, afraid that lower cost housing might depreciate their own home values. Giacomini assured the Contra Costa Times, “This will provide 224 families with places to live, and you’ll drive by and not be able to see anything.”

With financing no longer an issue, the Lucas project awaits approval from the Marin Community Development Agency.

May the Force be with it.