‘California Forever? Never’

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Vicki Gray, January 28, 2024

Vicki Gray, Vallejo CA

The Vallejo Times-Herald, the Vacaville Reporter, and now, in a two-page spread, the New York Times have done a good job reporting on the strong-arm tactics of Jan Sramek and a who’s who of billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalists to buy huge chunks of Solano County and change its character — tactics U.S. Rep. John Garamendi has called “mobster techniques.”

Flannery Associates, the tech brothers holding company for California Forever, has been secretly buying farmland between Rio Vista and Fairfield for six years to build, it claims, a model city of 50 to 200,000 — a sort of Villages North or, as Garamendi put it, Disneyland.

At a Rio Vista press conference last Wednesday, to which only supporters were granted entrance, Sramek announced a proposal full of pie-in-the sky promises — lacking any concrete detail — that it intends to get on the November ballot as an initiative. Having already spent close to a $1 billion on its land purchases, you can count on Flannery spending huge amounts to secure the 18,500 signatures it needs to get the ballot initiative approved. It has already blanketed the county with slick brochures, billboards, and contact offices. Typical of his cocky, in-your-face stance with local residents and officials, Sramek told those at Wednesday’s meeting, “We’re going to spend as much as we need to win” and “I am going to make this happen no matter what.” [Emph. added by BenIndy.]

Despite the reporting to date, major questions remain unanswered. What, for example, are the true plans of this venture capitalist initiative? Have the tech brothers really thrown millions into this project to solve San Francisco’s housing shortage by infill in Solano County? If you believe that, I’ve got a nice bridge to sell.

And, if in fact they are actually so altruistic, why begin this in secret. Why didn’t they begin by asking county residents: “Do you need more affordable housing? If so, where?” Why not begin infilling existing cities like Vallejo and Fairfield as envisaged by the county’s slow growth plan?

What sorts of industries will be brought into Flannery’s new empire — far greater than the new city’s footprint — to provide the “good jobs” for the new residents? Why would it not make more sense to contribute to the clean energy development of Mare Island?

What spade work has been done to ensure adequate public services — police, fire, schools? Or is California Forever to be a private company town like Spreckels in the Salinas Valley?

And how about water? Per reporting in the Times-Herald and Reporter, Mr. Sramek claims that there are parties in Northern California looking to sell water and that California Forever is already in conversation with them. Oh? Who are these “parties”? From what will the water be diverted? Farms? Bottom line, California Forever is but the latest in a long line of big money hustlers swooping into town confident they can convince people they see as job-hungry country bumpkins to buy into another destructive pig-in-a-poke.

Remember State Farm, Bechtel/Shell’s LNG plant, and that concrete plant on Vallejo’s waterfront? [Note from BenIndy: Read more about that concrete plant here.]

Let’s show them that we’re a little more sophisticated and possessed of a lot more dignity and self-respect than they can imagine. Joining the burgeoning opposition at www.solanotogether.org, let’s show Mr. Sramek that we will do whatever it takes to make sure he does not win.

— Vicki Gray/Vallejo

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BenIndy on the proposed Flannery Inc. land grab.