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Neighbors Perturbed over Grady Ranch's Environmental Impacts

George Lucas' planned digital studio drew oppostion at Marin County's Planning Commission meeting Monday.

Questions surrounding the environmental impact of film tycoon George Lucas' proposed digital production studio in Lucas Valley arose during a Marin County Planning Commission hearing Monday morning.

By the end of the meeting, the commission was still in the dark about several issues involving traffic, the restoration of surrounding creeks and more.

"It was a meeting where no decision was going to be made. It was meant to hear the public's opinion," Planning Commission Chair Peter Theran said in a phone interview.

The only decision made was that they would not extend the deadline for public comment on the environmental impact, which ends Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 4p.m.

If you wish to comment on the plan, email Commission Secretary Debra Stratton at dstratton@co.marin.ca.us.

Grady Ranch

The proposed Grady Ranch will consist of an approximately 270,000 square foot digital production studio, which includes administration offices, an employee restaurant, a general store, a wine tasting room, screening rooms, costume storage, dressing rooms, 20 overnight employee guest suites, a basement parking garage and film stages, according to the staff report

The project, which was approved along with its environmental impact report in 1996, is in its second phase. Since then, county staff identified several new issues not addressed in the 1996 report, including the volume of greenhouse gas emissions and the threat to species living in the surrounding habitat.

Changes Since 1996

In that time, steelhead trout became a threatened species, and the studio's construction could disturb the steelhead population in the nearby creeks. The impact of greenhouse gases on climate change was not addressed in 1996 report either, and the original plan's greenhouse gas emissions from operations would exceed the threshold set by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, according to the staff report.

Lucas, a San Anselmo resident, decided to scale back the project from the original proposal, which mitigated many of the environmental impacts. New measures, such as restoring Miller Creek and paying fees for greenhouse gas reductions, were also added to mitigate the environmental impacts.

There are less impacts than before and more perks, Interim Environmental Coordinator Rachel Warner said.

Find more of the changes and their mitigations in the staff report on the right.

Public Comment

Several Lucas Valley neighbors and Marin County residents are concerned about the scale of the development and lack of details in the supplemental report. 

"There are six to eight inches of material (from 1996) with a half inch of icing of supplemental material," said Carolyn Lenert, representing the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.

Lenert was one of many who told the Planning Commission there was a need for more community input and awareness about Grady Ranch. Many neighbors said they were unaware of the plan for constructing the studio until recently. 

"It's a 15-year-old plan that has been rushed to judgement," Lenert said.

Although the Lucas Valley Homeowners Association has not taken a position, its vice president, Dale Miller, approves of the plan because of the restoration of Miller Creek.

"I believe that the creek restoration measures will help them moderate the creek during heavy rainfall and decrease downstream erosion," he said.

Other neighbors mentioned issues with the building's height, with the potential noise from events at Grady Ranch and traffic.  

Merits of the Project

Monday's meeting was meant to solicit public input and address the adequacy of the new findings added to the 1996 environmental report. The commission will meet again on Feb. 27 to discuss the "merits of the project," according to Theran.

Tom Forster, acting as a representative for Skywalker Properties Ltd., hopes his organization's history in Marin will ease the public's concerns until February.

"We've been at Skyalker Ranch for more than 30 years," he said. "Look at the actions, not the speculation."



Susan M Khaury December 13, 2011 at 11:17 PM
This plan would bring much needed jobs to the area, including highly coveted careers in the creative arts. In this economy, every community must think in terms of providing jobs to the many who have lost their source of income or are underemployed.
Tucker Murphy December 14, 2011 at 12:20 AM
I'm sure the Claus Circle residents are against it.
Gary Erwin May 23, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Dixon California is ready to throw down the "Welcome Home" mat for Lucasfilm. We are ready, able and more than willing to host the studio. Let's get out the gold shovels and start the digging!

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