The plan for the utopian city in the Bay Area was shrouded in secrecy. Now the wealthy financiers want it on the ballot

RIO VISTA, CALIFO. — TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2021: Sheep graze at the Shiloh II wind farm in the Montezuma Hills near Rio Vista, California, on May 25, 2021. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

The plan for the utopian city in the Bay Area was shrouded in secrecy. Now the wealthy financiers want it on the ballot

California politics, homepage news

Jessica Garrison

January 17, 2024

The tech billionaires who have spent years secretly amassing land in the scrubby grasslands on the edge of San Francisco Bay have said they plan to start collecting signatures for a ballot initiative in Solano County that would pave the way for building a new city from the beginning.

The group, called California Forever, envisions a community with tens of thousands of new homes, new parks, bike paths and open space, as well as a solar farm. They plan a model city. It would be walkable, socio-economically integrated and fueled by clean energy.

But to get there, supporters will have to convince Solano County voters. That could be a difficult hurdle, since the project started with the secret purchase of land


and controversy erupted last year amid unfounded public speculation that the buyers were foreign agents bent on espionage. Federal, state and local approvals are also required.

Theoretically, proponents said, the new city could have a population of several hundred thousand people. But that’s still a long way off: If the ballot measure is approved, other government approvals would be needed. Lawsuits can also settle the matter in court. The earliest construction could begin, the backers said, is 2026.

We are excited to share the details of our plan to build a better Solano with all of you, said Jan Sramek, the CEO of California Forever, in a statement. This could be a new economic engine for Solano County and proof that California can still do great things when we work together.

The public campaign is a stark departure from the project’s origins, which began years ago when a mysterious LLC called Flannery Associates began buying thousands of acres of farmland. The purchases, which totaled more than $800 million, made some real estate sellers millionaires, many of whom had owned the land for more than a century.

But Flannery Associates did not disclose why it bought the land, which had been used for grazing for decades and recently become dotted with wind turbines, which has become as lazy as Sacramento Island.

-San Joaquin River

Delta flows into San Francisco Bay.

With much of the country located near Travis Air Force Base, some residents and elected officials began to speculate that Flannery Associates was a front for foreign investors who wanted the base, one of the nation’s busiest military facilities spy.

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove), who represents the region, said last year that he and other officials were unable to determine for years who was behind the staggering land grabs, and criticized the company for not cooperating with the local residents.

Flannery Associates used secrecy, bullying and gangster tactics to force generations of farm families to sell, the congressman said.

But then the financiers were revealed not as spies, but as titans of the tech industry, including Reid Hoffman; Marc Andrees


NL; and Patrick and John Collison, who founded the payments company Stripe.

Now California Forever is launching a plan to win over those who have expressed skepticism, and there are many. Officials have committed $400 million in financing for down payments for Solano County residents to purchase homes in the new community. They have also revealed images depicting idyllic town squares, tranquil water areas and charming cafes.

If the measure receives enough signatures, it could go before Solano County voters in November.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles