Entries in Low-Income (2)


George Lucas' California Housing Proposal to Become Reality

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(MARIN COUNTY, Calif.) -- A defiant George Lucas showed his Indiana Jones-caliber feistiness when the filmmaker ended nearly 25 years of neighborhood opposition to a California studio by announcing the land would instead be used to build low-income housing.

Lucas has been trying for decades to build a state-of-the art film studio on his Grady Ranch in Marin County, Calif., but his well-to-do neighbors have blocked his plans at every step of the way. In an official statement released by his production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., he said, "enough is enough."

"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," Lucas said in the statement.

"We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough," he wrote.

He said that "movies are waiting to be made" so he needs to take his project elsewhere.

"We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities," Lucas wrote.

But he saved the zinger for the last paragraph of the two-page statement.

"We plan to sell the Grady property expecting that the land will revert back to its original use for residential housing," he wrote. "We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit."

Lucas' move to make the upscale neighborhood affordable-housing friendly raised questions about whether he's attempting to exact revenge on his stubborn neighbors or even whether he's bluffing about a plan that's not real.

Thomas Peters, president and CEO of the Marin Community Foundation, can vouch for the plan's seriousness. The foundation is one of the largest in the country for investing money in philanthropic projects, so Peters immediately put a call into Lucasfilm after reading the statement.

"Was this just an edgy comment or does it have something to it? I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Lucas and his top company folks responded immediately that he was quite sincere about it," Peters said.

Peters has known Lucas, 68, for more than 20 years and Lucas has now made the land exclusively available to the foundation for development.

"[The proposal] was entirely focused on that positive outcome. It was not, as many people have speculated, 'This is how I'll show them,'" Peters said. "[Lucas] doesn't need, and doesn't have, any energy whatsoever for looking over his shoulder.

"He was passing a little frustration, as well he should after ... years of back and forth, but the fact of the matter is that he's done with that proposal. That's a set decision," he said. "The good news, depending on people's perspectives, is we'll get this done and we intend to do it here. He's also a guy that gets things done. We're going to do this."

The land in question is about 1,000 acres of "gorgeous, roaming land filled with oaks, eucalyptus trees and creeks," Peters said. Like Lucas' other two ranches, he builds on 3 percent of the land and preserves the rest.

That leaves the foundation with about 200 acres for the proposed housing project, which he says is more than enough. Early plans are looking at building about 300 apartments and condos on the land, most likely for senior citizens in need. Peters estimates the project will take about two years to complete.

"[Lucas has] been an extraordinarily good steward of the land and neighbor and planner and job creator," Peters said. "Most communities would bend over backwards to welcome him."

Lucas' projects in the county have created hundreds of jobs and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, Peters said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


International Micro-lender Grameen Bank Opens New York Branch

Grameen Bank founder, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Alma sits proudly behind a folding table showing off a line of Jafra Cosmetics.

“We sell perfumes, makeup, lipsticks,” she said. Alma and four other women started the door-to-door cosmetics sales company with a $1,500 loan from Grameen America, an offshoot of Grameen Bank, the nonprofit, low-income lender started by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Before this, Alma worked odd jobs in stores and bakeries but never made enough to cross to the other side of the poverty line.

“This brings back the hope that I can take care of myself,” she said at the ribbon-cutting for a Grameen branch in the South Bronx.

Grameen America operates branches in New York, Nebraska and Indiana.  Most of the borrowers are single mothers looking to become entrepreneurs.  Micro-financing is frequent in the Third World, and Yunus told ABC News there was, especailly in these economic times, a need for it in the U.S.

“This works for people, particularly people who are unemployed,” Yunus said.  “It’s always needed but now it’s needed most.  Those who are losing jobs, this is what brings them in.”

Yunus is looking to expand to San Francisco and perhaps Detroit as more Americans slip into poverty.

To help navigate American banking regulations, Grameen America has partnered with CitiBank.

“Grameen clients proved to be very strong,” said Bob Annibale, head of micro-finance at Citi.  ”They’re not just good borrowers with enterprising businesses.  They’re good savers.”

Loans are offered with no collateral required to low-income borrowers who agree to deposit a minimum of $2 per week in savings.  Borrowers must partner with four others.  Each group must agree to meet weekly and start or expand a business or otherwise generate income.

“There’s a 99-percent repayment rate.  It’s amazing,” Yunus said.

Alma and her group are on their third loan through Grameen America.

“It’s scary at the beginning,” she said.  “But we’re growing. Hopefully, one day we’ll get our own place and be stable.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio