George Lucas’ plan: 57 overnight guest rooms at Big Rock Ranch under review

George Lucas’ plan: 57 overnight guest rooms at Big Rock Ranch under review By Nels Johnson 27 Apr 2016, 05:37 PM Photo by: IJ photo — Alan Dep Filmmaker George Lucas proposes to create 57 guest rooms at his Big Rock Ranch complex, at upper left. County officials are reviewing plans by filmmaker George Lucas to remodel his Big Rock Ranch office complex in Lucas Valley to provide 57 overnight lodging rooms for guests. The project, which calls for an interior remodel of 76,556 square feet or less than half of the structure, requires a master plan amendment because it involves conversion of office space to living accommodations. Improvements would be limited to the existing footprint of the building and would not change its appearance from the outside, according to county planner Jocelyn Drake. A traffic analysis provided by Skywalker Properties indicates the plan would curb traffic envisioned by a 1996 master plan. The county Planning Commission will review the project at 1:45 p.m. May 9. A staff report and recommendation about the proposal will be issued next week. “As long as conversion does not change the footprint or building profiles, which fit well into the site, or require substantial new water and wastewater infrastructure, and as long as a covenant restricts lodgers to people working on projects on site… it could reduce some in and out day traffic on Lucas Valley Road,” environmentalist Nona Dennis said. “I’ll be personally reviewing the application and key documents … particularly the traffic study, and working with county staff to ensure a full vetting and complete understanding of the proposal,” Supervisor Damon Connolly said. “I look forward to hearing the perspective of the Planning Commission on May 9, and I’ll be keeping residents fully engaged throughout this process,” he added. “The Department of Public Works’ initial review of the traffic study agrees with the study’s conclusion that the proposed project would generate fewer car trips than are allowed under current permitted use.” ‘Minor’ change The Big Rock Ranch complex at 3838 Lucas Valley Road was approved for use as a multimedia center with a private theater, cafeteria with dining room, day care and fitness center, as well as archive storage. Construction of the $87 million special-effects and high-tech video complex began in 2000. It has served as office space for the nonprofit George Lucas Education Foundation and for Skywalker Properties administrative staff, and housed Lucasfilm Animation, which moved to the Presidio in 2006. “In addition to the conversion of office space to guest units, the remodel project entails upgrades to the existing food facilities, expansion of the existing general store, the creation of additional meeting areas, and the elimination of the childcare portion of the fitness childcare building and conversion of the floor area to a spa and expanded fitness facility,” according to a county Community Development Agency description of the project. “No additional building area is proposed as part of the project and no exterior changes are proposed to the buildings or site improvements.” Angelo Garcia, vice president of Skywalker Properties, and president of Lucas Real Estate Holdings, described the change in use as “minor” in a letter to county planners. “We are not seeking any on-site employee housing, nor are we seeking to modify anything on the exterior or in the existing conditions of approval for the master plan,” he said. “The only change we are undertaking is a minor one in use — the conversion of some of the office space to 57 guest units for overnight lodging for clients,” he added. “This will result in less overall traffic and no changes in parking, water use or septic capacity.” Traffic study The building’s 184,700 square feet of floor area would accommodate “up to 300 employees and including a maximum of 57 guest units for overnight guests working at Big Rock Ranch,” he added. “On-site population limitations shall be monitored by reference to company records respecting the total number of employees and overnight guests on site on a daily basis,” with information compiled quarterly. “Fluctuations” in population will be permitted as long as they are not significant and average daily population does do not exceed 300 people during a quarter, he added. A traffic study prepared by Robert Harris of Tiburon for Skywalker Properties architect John Wynne indicates the change of use at Big Rock would ease traffic projected by the master plan approved by the county. “The Big Rock remodel is projected to generate 407 daily trips, 85 a.m. peak hour trips and 70 p.m. peak hour trips,” according to Harris. “When compared to the historically fluctuating occupancy that is consistent with Big Rock master plan as approved in 1996, the proposed remodel project would generate 430 fewer daily trips, 47 fewer a.m. peak hour trips and 5 fewer p.m. peak hour trips.” “I can’t answer the question,” Harris said when asked if lodging use might generate more traffic than existing use of the building does. County planners said the building has been underused. It is possible guest lodging might generate more traffic than today’s fluctuating use does. “Use there has been up and down over the last couple years, so (actual traffic flow today) would depend on what day you took the traffic count,” Harris noted. In any case, traffic generated by the new use will be less than allowed by the 1996 permit, he said. Future use Stephen Nestel, founder of the SaveMarinwood website, said officials must focus on future use of the property. “The key issue is not just how Lucas will use the property but subsequent owners of the property,” Nestel said. “Are we approving use just for occasional overnight guests or a heavily used resort after he sells the property?” Nestel suggested “use stipulations” regulating future use. “In principle, Lucas has been a great neighbor and I support use consistent with what he has been doing for years,” the Marinwood watchdog added. Tom Forster, Skywalker’s director of community relations, said the plan is a no-brainer. “We’re seeking to improve the amenities at Big Rock so that they are similar to those at Skywalker Ranch,” he said, noting that Skywalker has quarters for 26 overnight guests. “We would hope approval happens quickly.” David N. Swaim Tam Realty Inc Owner DRE#1070789 415-710-5504 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 www.tamrealty.com Serving all of Marin County

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