Billionaires’ Solano City pitch shows a progressive vision

[Note from BenIndy contributor Roger Straw – Some are calling it the next generation of environmentally sensitive urban planning, a utopian city. Too good to be true? Environmentally sound, or just a smoke screen? Check out the website and description by the billionaire group. Clearly a highly professional kick-off to their dream city here in Solano.]

First renderings show new California city that tech billionaires want to build

Flannery Associates, a group of tech billionaires looking to build in Solano County, unveiled the name and website of California Forever.

San Francisco Chronicle, by J.K. Dineen, Aug. 31, 2023

A rendering of a proposed city planned in Solano County, by the group California Forever. The group is releasing its vision of the city for the first time via its website. | Provided by California Forever

The Silicon Valley billionaire-backed plan to build a 21st century utopian city on agricultural land on the edge of the Bay Area has a name and a website featuring the first renderings of what the Solano County dreamland might look like.

The initiative’s name — California Forever — was unveiled Thursday afternoon after a two-week period in which the group’s acquisition of 55,000 acres in southeast Solano County has come under fire from politicians, farmers and environmentalists.

The first renderings from California Forever evoke a cityscape with a dreamy white stucco and red rooftop Mediterranean vibe that might be found in a Greek or Italian village. There are hillside neighborhoods stepping down to what must be the banks of the Sacramento River, kayakers tooling through lily pads and anglers fishing from the riverbank at sunrise.

A rendering of a scene in a proposed city planned in Solano County, by the group California Forever. Much of the land purchased for the city is landlocked, but the group has secured some waterfront property. | Provided by California Forever

There is an image of a city rising on a hill behind farmland, and some more urban scenes: pedestrians meandering through narrow streets of cafes and farmstands, workers installing solar panels and what looks like commuters reading while waiting to board a street car.

The website leads with “starting a conversation about eastern Solano County” and promises “a chance for a new community, good paying local jobs, solar farms, and open space.”

The website says Solano County — “nestled between Sacramento, the Delta, San Francisco, and Napa Valley” — encapsulates the “diversity of California’s landscapes and its people.”

“It is the home of agriculture and green energy industries that sustainably feed and power our state, strong middle-class communities, and our nation’s busiest Air Force base,” the group states. “Eastern Solano County is also an area ready for a new community. We’re excited to tell our story.”

A rendering of an installation of solar panels near a proposed city planned in Solano County by the group California Forever. | Provided by California Forever

The website says California Forever is the parent company of Flannery Associates, which has purchased more than 50,000 acres in Solano County.

“To date, our company has been quiet about our activities. This has, understandably, created interest, concern, and speculation,” the group says. “Now that we’re no longer limited by confidentiality, we are eager to begin a conversation about the future of Solano County — a conversation with all of you.”

The website also names an investor who has not been named previously — venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, an early investor in Google, Slack and other companies. It also reveals that the Gabriel Metcalf, the former CEO of the San Francisco urban think tank SPUR, is part of the team behind the project. Other investors include Marc Andreessen, Patrick and John Collison, Chris Dixon, Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross, Reid Hoffman, Michael Moritz and Laurene Powell Jobs.

California Forever says it has conducted surveys and interviews with 2,000 Solano County residents, who have emphasized a need for “more opportunities to buy homes in safe, walkable communities,” as well as good jobs, more money to improve schools, promote public safety and reduce homelessness.

While California Forever may have billions to invest in the project, it will face staunch opposition from some ranchers who argue that the city would disrupt the economy of a county that is 62% farmland. The project would also be inconsistent with Solano County’s Orderly Growth Measure, which requires that all urban development take place within city boundaries, rather than unincorporated parts of the county. California Forever says it supports the Orderly Growth Measure, but will ask voters to support the development.

“The Orderly Growth Measure is the right approach to safeguard Solano, including our project, from sprawl and disorderly growth for many years to come,” the group said.