[Note from BenIndy: Lots to look at and start unpacking here. First, we have our first map of the new town proposed by California Forever (see headline image) and a population goal for the first wave of new settler-occupiers – 50,000 (with room to expand to 400,000). Second, we now know what the ballot initiative will be called and how many signatures will be required to put it on the ballot: getting the East Solano Homes, Jones, And Clean Energy Initiative on the November ballot will require 13,000 signatures from Solano voters. Third, they’re launching with a plan to offer $400 million to Solano residents to help with down payments on homes in this new city. Not mentioned in this article are the $200 million California Forever is planning to invest in Solano cities (including Benicia) to revitalize downtown areas, and a laundry list of various “guarantee” initiatives, including the Solano Jobs Guarantee, Green Solano Guarantee, Water Guarantee, Transportation Guarantee, Schools Guarantee, Smart Growth Guarantee, Taxpayer Guarantee … Phew. Check out the full, 83-page initiative text HERE.]
SFGate, by Katie Dowd, January 17, 2024
The new proposed city in Solano County finally has a map. Along with the map, California Forever, the group backing the project, is promising a utopia of affordable homes, world-leading technology and efficient public transit.
On Wednesday, California Forever said it is officially filing the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative with the Solano County Registrar of Voters. [Emph. added by BenIndy.] If the group can secure more than 13,000 signatures from Solano County voters, the measure will go before voters this November.
The group has been criticized for its secrecy. Last year, news broke that a shadowy group called Flannery Associates was buying up tens of thousands of acres of land in rural Solano County. Within a decade, they’d quietly become the biggest landowner in the county. Local politicians demanded an investigation into the group amid concerns it was a national security threat to have an unnamed landowner snatching up plots near Travis Air Force Base.
In August, a group of tech billionaires was revealed as the backers of the land grab. Among them are philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. They launched the California Forever name at that time, installing former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek as its CEO.
Since then, California Forever has done a PR blitz in Solano County, sending out thousands of surveys to residents, holding town halls and opening offices in several towns. The ambitious plan has been met with skepticism, especially around concerns that traffic congestion is already a constant problem on Interstate 80 between Fairfield and Dixon. The city is being planned to start with 50,000 residents but eventually could accommodate 400,000. The map shows the new city would be nestled between Travis Air Force Base and Rio Vista.
“This is a pipe dream,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, who was furious with backers for their secrecy about property close to a U.S. Air Force base. He said the proposed development, which he also was briefed on, makes no sense “in the middle of areas surrounded by wind farms, gas fields, endangered species, no water, no sanitation system and no road system let alone a highway system.”
California Forever’s initiative boldly claims the new city will be “one of the most sustainable communities in the world.” Its 18,600 acres will include 4,000 acres of “parks, trails, urban ecological habitat, community gardens, and other types of open space.” Neighborhoods will be grouped around schools, shops and restaurants, with an emphasis on walkability. Previous renderings released by the group show Manhattan-like row houses and Mediterranean-style vistas.
California Forever said it will be distributing $400 million to Solano County residents who need help making a down payment, with priority given to “working families, teachers, nurses, police and firefighters and construction workers.” Its promotional materials do not yet list how much homes will cost.
Likely in direct response to the many fears about an unknown group surrounding Travis AFB, the plan also says it will designate a “Travis Security Zone” that doubles the “buffer” around the base from about 8,000 acres to 15,000 acres.
If the measure goes to Solano County voters in November, California Forever needs them to overturn protections put in place in 1984 to keep agricultural land from being turned into urban space. If approved, the plan would then undergo two years of environmental review.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More about California Forever on the Benicia Independent:
- California Forever reveals plan B if ballot measure fails
- California Forever gutted at first Solano town hall
- Solano County environmentalist groups announce new coalition against California Forever project
- Sierra Club calls California Forever’s plans to build new city a ‘clandestine possession‘
- Let’s tell California Forever: We don’t accept ultimatums
- Latest on Flannery’s plan for new Solano City (California Forever)