Campaign Finance Question – California Forever Dipping Into Deep Pockets Again

By Roger Straw, June 25, 2024

Quick question: will California Forever be required to report the new medical facility in Rio Vista as a campaign expense? CBS News seems to think so – they headlined the story, “California Forever founder announces planned clinics in bid to win over Solano County voters”.

If, as reported in the Vallejo Times-Herald, this primary care and urgent care clinic is to be “fully operational by the end of 2024,” there will surely be staff time and costs incurred well before the November 5 election. No, Mr. Sramek will contend – it’s purely from the center of our billionaire hearts, and the hopes and dreams of our all-knowing and beneficent minds.

Oh, and not so quick:

  • How about the half-million dollar handouts to Solano non-profits? Campaign expense?
  • How about the staff time and costs of planning for a bazillion dollar everybody-loves-it sports center? Campaign expense?

Same. Sramek: …clearly just a drop in the honey-bucket of our plans to improve your life out there in hick-land.

Thanks Jan, you’re the greatest!

MORE . . .

>> Get involved… Solano Together is another local organization opposing California Forever. Between now and November, you can get a yard sign from Solano Together and send Solano Together a much needed donation.

>> Read more… BenIndy coverage of the billionaire land grab, California Forever / East Solano Plan.

TODAY! Voice Your California Forever Concerns – In Person

From Solano Together message, sent June 24, 2024

TODAY, June 25, at 2 p.m., the Solano County Board of Supervisors will convene to discuss California Forever’s East Solano Plan. At this meeting, the Board of Supervisors can adopt the Initiative, order a 30-day study, or put the Initiative on the ballot. Attendees will have the opportunity for a public comment and we ask you to urge the Board to conduct a 30-day study of the Initiative.

Our coalition will show up strong and we urge you to do the same and voice your concerns and opposition to the California Forever/East Solano Plan. Here is how you can do it.

Show up for an in-person comment:

  • The meeting will take place at the Solano County Administration Center (675 Texas Street in Fairfield) at 2 p.m.
  • Arrive early: we recommend arriving as early as noon to save your seat. We anticipate a big turnout and the space has limited capacity.
  • Seating will be first-come, first-serve, and participants will receive yellow cards to fill out if they wish to speak.
  • Remarks will be limited to one minute. Please keep it to the point and be respectful.
  • No signs, posters, or noisemakers will be allowed inside.
  • Bring water, food, and snacks for the line.
  • Overflow seating and livestream will also be available.
  • More than anything, we hope the Supervisors will call for the study of the impacts of this initiative.
Submit your online comment (sorry, too late now):
  • If you can’t attend the meeting in person, send your comments online. Click here to access the agenda.
  • According to the Board of Supervisors website: If you wish to address any item listed on the Agenda in advance of the meeting, please submit comments in writing to the Clerk of the Board by U.S. Mail or by email. Written comments should be received no later than 5:00 P.M. on the Monday prior to the Board meeting to ensure distribution in advance of the meeting. The email address for the Clerk is: Copies of comments received will be provided to the Board and will become a part of the official record but will not be read aloud at the meeting. 
  • Feel free to use our resources, such as the FAQ, for your talking points.
Call in (not available for this meeting):

Given the anticipated large crowds, comments must be made in person. If you are unable to attend, please submit an online comment or write to your supervisor (see above).

What We Will Share

We strongly oppose this harmful development proposal and urge you to vote NO on the ballot in November.

Here are a few things we will share with the Board of Supervisors at the upcoming meeting:

  • Threats to Travis Airforce Base
  • Increased traffic, commute gridlock
  • Negative impact on water and food production resources
  • Less investment in existing cities
  • No binding guarantees until a development agreement

Read more about each item on our FAQs and Resources pages.

MORE . . .

>> Get involved… Solano Together is another local organization opposing California Forever. Between now and November, you can get a yard sign from Solano Together and send Solano Together a much needed donation.

>> Read more… BenIndy coverage of the billionaire land grab, California Forever / East Solano Plan.

CA YIMBY Endorses East Solano Plan Despite Cofounder’s Financial Ties, Dividing Housing Advocates

[Note from BenIndy: You may have heard that California YIMBY recently endorsed California Forever’s East Solano Plan, but did you know that its cofounder, who is also a current member of its board, is an investor in the project?  Kind of puts the endorsement under a cloud, doesn’t it – even with the standard reassurances. And did you know that some CA YIMBY members and other housing advocates are very deeply opposed to the project? Do you think CA YIMBY should have disclosed that its cofounder and board member has a financial stake in the success of a project it endorsed? Do you think CA YIMBY is justified in dismissing the concerns of a grassroots coalition that has united a diverse array of groups – Democrats, Republicans, YIMBYs, NIMBYs, long-time residents, new residents, environmentalists, ranchers, and farmers of all ages and backgrounds – as merely “reflexive skepticism?”]

YIMBYs are feuding over ‘California Forever,’ billionaire-backed utopia in rural Bay Area

A plan to build a city in eastern Solano County is causing a schism in the YIMBY movement. | Noah Berger / The Standard.

The San Francisco Standard, by Gabe Gerschler, June 24, 2024

A plan backed by billionaire techies that promises to bring hundreds of thousands of new homes to a remote part of the Bay Area is causing a major rift within one of the state’s most influential housing organizations.

The divide spilled into public view on Wednesday after a former member of California YIMBY criticized the organization’s endorsement of the East Solano Plan, exposing a split between the broader pro-housing coalition and its more urban-focused wing.

Melissa Breach, who left California YIMBY in April, described the East Solano Plan in an interview as “sprawl” that would cost taxpayers heavily for new roads and other infrastructure.

“Everyone wants to believe there is a golden ticket for 400,000 new homes,” Breach, who served as California YIMBY’s chief operating officer, told The Standard. “Everybody wants to believe there’s a silver bullet. We need to be building predominantly inside our existing communities.”

The East Solano Plan, backed by a group calling itself California Forever, is no stranger to criticism. According to its website, the plan hopes to attract 400,000 more people to rural Solano County by providing “middle-class homes in safe, walkable neighborhoods.” It also calls for communities to be served by a “range of transportation needs,” including cars, walking, bikes and “frequent” transit service.

Some residents have resisted the plan, with concerns about the purchase of large swaths of farmland, initial secrecy surrounding the plan and questions over job prospects in the area. The Sierra Club called the land acquisitions a “hostile takeover.

Now concerns are also coming from some of the state’s housing activists, a group that has become increasingly influential at the local and state levels as affordability issues continue to plague the Golden State.

Instead of going all the way out to Solano County to build more housing, the YIMBY critics argue the development should be “infill,” meaning it must happen within cities to capitalize on existing infrastructure and transit lines. That’s in stark contrast to the East Solano Plan, considered “greenfield” development that builds on top of previously undeveloped land.

California YIMBY’s decision to endorse the East Solano Plan is causing rifts within the pro-housing community. | Noah Berger / The Standard.

“I think it is an interesting discussion between people who are very pro-housing and people who are urbanists,” said housing activist Darrell Owens. “That’s the crux of the debate.”

Sam Greenberg, who describes himself as a pro-housing organizer, said the East Solano Plan is incompatible with his vision of what more development in the state looks like.

“I personally do not believe that this project is the right solution to the regional housing crisis,” said Greenberg. “Looking at history, there haven’t really been examples of successful new cities like this in the United States. The movement that has advocated for other new cities in the modern era has not really resulted in places that are that much more sustainable than existing places.”

In addition, Greenberg cited a lack of trust in the people behind the East Solano Plan.

“I think there are a lot of folks who don’t have trust that their intentions are purely altruistic,” said Greenberg. “I think they’re looking to just make a profit.”

Investors in the project include major Silicon Valley technologists and venture capitalists, like Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe’s co-founders Patrick and John Collison, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and Michael Moritz, The Standard’s chairman.

Other investors include Nat Friedman, a co-founder of California YIMBY and a current board member. [Emph. added.] Brian Hanlon, who leads the organization, said Friedman had no influence on California YIMBY’s endorsing of the East Solano Plan.

“This was a staff-led decision,” he said.

A spokesperson for California YIMBY described the pro-housing movement as “a really big tent.”

“The thing we all agree on is there is a housing shortage and an affordability crisis causing harm across California,” said spokesperson Matthew Lewis. “It is not a surprise we don’t all agree on everything. Yet, I think we still love each other.”

In its letter explaining the decision to endorse the plan, California YIMBY said “most greenfield development in California over the past century has left much to be desired.”

But the East Solano Plan, the organization argues, would establish walkability that is much better than past greenfield developments. The letter also addresses the schism within the YIIMBY movement.

“We sympathize with the reflexive skepticism of the project among members of our coalition, including friends in the environmental movement,” the letter states. “When it comes to solving our housing crisis, our focus remains on making it easier to build housing in existing cities—near quality jobs and public services.”

The East Solano Plan qualified for the ballot this month after receiving the required signatures. On Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to adopt the plan outright, place it on the November ballot, or order a report to assess the project’s impacts before it is placed on the ballot.

Progressive Dems of Benicia Urge Solano Voters to Oppose East Solano Plan / California Forever

[Note from BenIndy: The Progressive Dems were not the first and will likely not be the last Democratic club in Solano County to urge opposition to this project, but it was actually the Solano County Republicans who came out against the project first, and they aren’t holding back. Gil Duran’s post Miracle in Solano: California Forever unites Democrats and Republicans is a great exploration of a nascent bipartisan coalition and the issues in Solano that appear to be uniting conservatives and liberals, for the time being.]

JUNE 20, 2024

BENICIA – The Progressive Democrats of Benicia (“PDB”) stand with the Solano Together coalition of individuals and organizations, including the Greenbelt Alliance, Solano County Orderly Growth Committee, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club California, and others, in opposing the California Forever’s East Solano Plan.

PDB’s mission is to promote equity, justice, and environmental stewardship in our community. We advocate for democratically determined, sustainable, and inclusive solutions that honor both the needs of Benicia and Solano County residents and the preservation of our natural environment. 

The proposed development by California Forever contradicts these core principles. The project’s glossy marketing and recent rebranding cannot hide the reality that its leaders have failed to fully answer questions about how to provide for the Solano County community’s present and future needs. PDB must therefore urge a “NO” vote on the initiative, should it qualify to appear on the November ballot.

PDB acknowledges the urgent need for affordable housing for Californians; however, California Forever has provided no clear commitment to addressing this issue, referring to home prices in the millions. The East Solano Plan also risks vital water and land resources, our air quality, and the future of Solano County’s agricultural economy without adequately addressing serious infrastructural concerns around the city’s accessibility or impacts to neighboring cities. Moreover, California Forever’s East Solano Plan ballot measure threatens to cause irreversible damage to Solano County’s unique conservation areas and jeopardize the future of some of California’s most resilient farms and rangelands. Finally, the nature of the proposed city’s governance is unclear, generating real concerns about whether residents in this new city will have the ability to participate democratically in their governance.

The Progressive Democrats of Benicia urge voters to support the development of genuinely affordable housing, safeguard our environment, and protect Solano County’s democratic values and future by voting NO on the California Forever/East Solano Plan measure in November.

To download a PDF copy of this release, click this link: Progressive Democrats of Benicia News Release re. California Forever’s East Solano Plan (6.20.24)

MORE . . .

>> ACTION ALERT for June 25 from Solano Together! 

>>Get involved… Solano Together is local organization opposing California Forever. Between now and November, you can get a yard sign from Solano Together and send Solano Together a much needed donation.

>> Read more… BenIndy coverage of the billionaire land grab, California Forever / East Solano Plan.

For safe and healthy communities…