A cabal of billionaires has proposed a hostile takeover of Solano County to build a tech-utopian city that would upend years of local and regional growth planning.
That’s the conclusion of the Sierra Club, which has vowed to fight the California Forever development backed by Silicon Valley billionaires who secretly bought up tens of thousands of acres for a new city near Travis Air Force Base, the San Francisco Standard reported.
Ahead of town halls planned this week by Folsom-based Flannery Associates across Solano County on its California Forever plan, the Oakland-based environmental group said it would lay out terms of its opposition.
In a press release, The Sierra Club described Flannery as “a cabal of billionaires.”
The environmental advocate said the group’s efforts to secretly buy up 55,000 acres of land threaten to undo years of local and regional growth planning.
“Ignoring the current voter-approved uses of land that Flannery has acquired in order to jack their investment’s economic return is nothing short of a hostile takeover,” said Suisun City Vice Mayor and Sierra Club Solano Group Chair Princess Washington.
“These land use rules have allowed for a harmonious relationship of agricultural uses and open space with the urban environment of the seven existing cities in Solano County,” Washington added.
The land, including 78 square miles between San Francisco and Sacramento, was purchased under the corporate name Flannery Associates.
Seven Bay Area billionaires spent $800 million to buy up the farmland in the hopes of transforming it into a modern metropolis. Flannery launched a website touting the venture, which said the project’s parent company is called California Forever.
Former investment banker Jan Sramek spearheaded the land acquisition beginning in 2017.
An elite group of tech entrepreneurs and investors joined, including Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and Michael Moritz, formerly of Sequoia Capital and now chairman of The San Francisco Standard.
They aim to support a city-of-the-future complete with retro-style row houses that would be more affordable than other Bay Area homes.
Sramek wants to put the controversial city on the November 2024 ballot.
“With respect to these project opponents, who made up their minds before ever seeing details of the project, they are entitled to their own opinions — but not their own ‘facts,’” Sramek told the Standard.
“By giving voters the final say, this project explicitly adheres to the Orderly Growth Initiative, by asking Solano voters whether they want to turn an area with the least productive and least ecologically valuable soils in all of Solano County into a new economic engine for the county,” he said.
But Joe Feller, a board member for the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter and Solano Group, said it sees California Forever “a distinct violation” of the county’s orderly growth initiative and pointed to its previous renewals by voters since 1984.
“We do not see any advantages to the project,” Feller told the newspaper. “The only thing we see is billionaires getting richer. That’s all we see.”