California Forever CEO clarifies that its new city will be affordable – to millionaires

[Note from BenIndy: You can click the image to be redirected to read the interview Aiden Mayhood is referencing, but the pertinent piece is below in full, so the whole pitch for the new city proposed by California Forever is in context. Homeownership in the Bay Area continues to be something middle-income families can only dream of​, so it makes sense that the promise of affordable homes is one of California Forever’s major talking points in their bid to build a new city in Eastern Solano. Someone on California Forever’s PR team should have let CEO Jan Sramek know that the average middle-income family is not going to be able to afford a million-dollar home and his comment was, at best, an example of a billionaire deeply out of touch with the reality the middle class lives every day. If California Forever’s city will be continuing the trend of development for the super-wealthy, that is something every petition signatory should know. By the way, Aiden Mayhood is one of the more vocal activists who oppose the new city and worth following if you are on Facebook.]

Katherine [interviewer]: So it’s a housing question, but when you’re trying to get people to move to a new city, you also have to think about the other part of the equation, which is jobs, as you mentioned. What is your pitch to employers to tell them to come to Solano County?

Jan [Sramek, CEO of California Forever]: So, we have a lot of employers in the room, I think, in the Bay Area and in New York and DC. How many people feel like they need to pay their employees increasingly more and more and more because their employees can’t afford to live in the cities that they want to live in? Probably a lot of you.

How many of you are struggling because you can’t get your employees to come to the office every day? Because your employees have a commute that’s 45 minutes or, in some cases, one-and-a-half hours, and they just don’t want to spend that amount of time in traffic every day. So, even though when you tell them that they should come to the office, they fight and they don’t want to because they want to see their kids and they want to have breakfast with their kids, they want to have dinner with their kids.

And so, our pitch is, imagine that you had a place like West Village in New York or Georgetown in DC, or Noe Valley or the Marina in San Francisco. Medium density, row houses, backyards, traditional American urbanism, local shopping streets where you can walk to.

Then, imagine that we improved the transportation system by creating super blocks where cars inside those super blocks can only go about 10 miles an hour. We created biking and public transport infrastructure to use with that, meaning your kids can actually play in the streets, meaning your kids can actually walk to school alone and you don’t have to be chauffeur your whole life like a crazy person.

And then imagine that we build that in a place that is 25 minutes to Napa Valley, and that is an hour and a half away from Tahoe. And so, it’s a lot closer to those places that everyone in the Bay Area loves than Palo Alto or Cupertino or San Francisco or Oakland. And then imagine that the place is still an hour and a half away from your headquarters or office in San Francisco or Palo Alto or Menlo Park or whatever.

And so, if your team members between the two offices want to go and see each other, you don’t have to do Uber, TSA, airport, plane, delayed plane, airport, Uber, get to the office in Austin or Denver or wherever it is, but you can actually get in a car and in an hour and a half or in an hour, you can be there.

And then imagine that it was a city for up to 400,000 people that was entitled and approved at once. And so, you knew that for the next 30 years, if this office is going to work and you’ll be able to hire talent there, there’ll be enough space for you to grow in for the next 30 years. There’ll be enough office and there’ll be enough homes for your employees, whether they want to rent them or whether they want to buy them.

And then imagine that instead of paying 4 or 5 million dollars for a mediocre home in Palo Alto or San Francisco, your employees would be able to buy a nice house for a million dollars.

Katherine: Yeah, I think that’s where everyone says, “Sign me up.”