SF Chronicle, by J. K. Dineen, November 28, 2023
In what amounted to a campaign kickoff for the coalition fighting California Forever’s plans for a new city in Solano County, leaders from the Sierra Club and other groups held a rally Tuesday morning announcing their opposition to the project.
At a press conference, Sierra Club Solano Group Chair Princess Washington characterized the project as a “clandestine possession.”
Washington said that the Bay Area had lost 270,000 acres of agricultural land in the last decade, and that the Solano project would jeopardize tens of thousands of acres of additional farmland.
“This is land we cannot get back once it’s developed,” she said.
The rally, which also featured Fairfield Mayor Cat Moy, comes as California Forever gears up for a 2024 ballot initiative that seeks voter approval to develop portions of the 55,000 acres the group has acquired in unincorporated Solano over the last five years. The acreage, nearly twice the size of San Francisco, lies between Fairfield and Rio Vista.
While California Forever has not revealed any concrete plans — the group of billionaires behind the initiative includes LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, and Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison — the group must seek approval because of Solano County’s “Orderly Growth Initiative,” which requires voter approval for any project built in unincorporated portions of the county. California Forever has started a series of community meetings to build support for the project.
Washington blasted California Forever for ignoring “years of Smart Use planning and the voter approved Orderly Growth Initiative.”
“By ignoring the current voter approved uses of land that Flannery has acquired in order to jack their investment’s economic return is nothing short of a hostile takeover,” Washington said.
But California Forever CEO Jan Sramek countered that the project “embodies the very spirit” of the orderly growth initiative, which has been in place for 40 years.
“By giving voters the final say, this project explicitly adheres to the Orderly Growth Initiative by asking Solano voters whether they want to turn an area with the least productive and least ecologically valuable soils in all of Solano County into a new economic engine for the county,” Sramek said. “We support the Orderly Growth Initiative, and that’s why we’re going directly to voters.”
He said the group is proposing to develop “pasture land rather than prime farmland,” and would preserve the open space Suisun Marsh and the Jepson Prairie. He also said the new city would offer a balance of jobs and housing, which would help Solano County residents find work closer to home.
Fairfield Mayor Cat Moy, an outspoken opponent of the project, called it “a threat to Travis Airforce Base,” which is the county’s biggest employer. She said building anywhere near Travis Air Force Base is “a big fat no.”
“They are not talking to my people in Fairfield and Solano County where I grew up,” she said. “We are a right to farm county. That means a lot.”
Moy also criticized the group for buying up the land in secrecy and for years refusing to answer questions about their intentions.
“You have hurt farmers already, you have divided families who have been here for more than a century,” she said. “Enough already.”
Sierra Club Calls Billionaires’ Plan ‘Clandestine Possession’ of Solano County Land
SUISUN, CA – The Sierra Club will announce at a press conference here Tuesday its opposition to Flannery LLC’s proposal for a new city in Solano County, characterizing the project as a “clandestine possession,” charging the California Forever Project ignores years of Smart Use planning and the voter approved Orderly Growth Initiative.
More details will be presented at a formal Press Conference, at the Plaza in front of the County offices at 675 W. Texas St. at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.
By Zoom: Meeting ID: 698 093 8552 Passcode: G1QC0K https://us06web.zoom.us/j/6980938552?pwd=NYE6hCuacobYGngpaOuDDub1NRZFAh.1&omn=85049635473
The Flannery LLC is a corporation that secretly purchased more than 60,000 acres of Solano County agricultural land without disclosing its backers.
After Flannery LLC was outed as a cabal of billionaires, they have now floated a plan called California Forever which flies in the face of years of Smart Growth planning endangering Travis AFB, the Suisun Marsh and the largest existent agricultural area remaining in the Bay Area.
“By ignoring the current voter approved uses of land that Flannery has acquired in order to jack their investment’s economic return is nothing short of a hostile takeover,” said Sierra Club Solano Group Chair Princess Washington.
Washington added, “These land use rules have allowed for a harmonious relationship of agricultural uses and open space with the urban environment of the seven existing cities in Solano County. There will be an increase in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).”
Brandon Dawson, Sierra Club State Executive Director, said, “This project will violate recent Statewide efforts including the Governor’s 30 by 30 project and various efforts to reduce Green House Gases.”
Contacts: Princess Washington – Chair Sierra Club Solano Group – (707) 333-7073 email@example.com
Joe Feller – Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Executive Committee – (415) 902-3395
[BenIndy comment: Vicki Gray’s letter sets the Flannery land-grab / fantasy-$-city into historical context. Brilliant, and reminiscent of Rachel Maddow’s way of examining history as illuminating background for current breaking news.]
Vicki Gray: Here we go again …
Vallejo Times-Herald, by Vicki Gray, November 16, 2023
Remember the Bechtel/Shell plan a decade ago to build an LNG terminal in Vallejo?
It was announced as an apparently done deal in a Times-Herald headline “Welcome to Energy Island” three days before the Vallejo City Council was to meet to give it a go-ahead.
Well here in Solano County we’re about to embark on another long, costly fight against another crop of outside investors — this time a group of young Silicon Valley billionaires intent on building a “utopian” city just east of Fairfield. They style themselves “California Forever” and are headed by venture capitalist Jan Stramek who, despite an itinerant career in London, New York, and Silicon Valley, now claims he is a Fairfield resident.
All we know so far is that the idea “tickles their fancy.” They have been secretly buying land for six years but have only now started on a Bechtel/Shell-like flim-flam game designed to convince local residents to buy their pig in a poke. A few weeks ago, we received a slick flyer with appropriately utopian images ostensibly seeking local input in an undisclosed plan in which they’ve already dumped millions of dollars, presumably to be able to say that their plan — whenever it is disclosed — reflects local desires.
And now they’ve recruited a “Community Advisory Committee” of potential cheerleaders spearheaded by the Napa Solano Labor Council’s Jon Riley, who shilled for Bechtel/Shell so long ago. Can a pliable minister or politician be far behind?
Among the many hurdles facing this project is Solano County’s long-standing slow growth regulation. Stramek’s group hopes to side-step that by gaining voter approval for its “plan” on next year’s ballot. Only problem is there is no plan, at least not one they’re willing to reveal, and there’s a January deadline for submitting a plan to include on the ballot.
Enter the United States Defense Department, which objects to a large portion of the land purchased by California Forever, land that if in private hands would endanger the security of Travis AFB. So now the young Silicon Valley tycoons have given Fairfield and County officials until Dec. 31 to agree to a land swap that would enable them to draft a concrete plan to put on the November ballot — six weeks after six years of secretive land purchases! The hubris of Mr. Stramek and his cohorts is exceeded only by their chutzpah.
I hope our local officials have the strength and wisdom to tell California Forever, “We don’t accept ultimatums. Come back a year hence after you have leveled with us about your plan and we have had ample time to exercise due diligence in considering it.”
Do we want more cars on the I-80 commute? Higher techie-driven housing costs? Environmental spoliation? Increased demand on our water supplies? If like me you think not, please contact Fairfield Mayor Moy, our county supervisors, and U.S. Reps. Thompson and Garamendi and urge them to put a stop to this ill-considered pipedream.
And thank you, Times-Herald, for your dogged, informative reporting unveiling California Forever’s machinations. Keep it up!
— Vicki Gray/Vallejo