Tag Archives: Rio Vista CA

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.

Solano residents confront Flannery land grab at Rio Vista town hall

[Note from BenIndy: Plan now to attend Flannery’s Benicia town hall meeting, next Thursday, December 14, 6 – 8pm at the Benicia Historical Museum, 2060 Camel Road, Benicia.]

Margaret Anderson, left, puts her arm around her daughter Maryn Johnson, as they ask California Forever to drop the lawsuit against the 43 individuals from 12 families who wouldn’t sell their property to the company in their pursuit of a residential development in Solano County, as they speak at a town hall on Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Rio Vista. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Sued farmers speak up at California Forever town hall

Crowd of more than 100 attend relatively orderly Rio Vista event

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Daniel Egitto and Nick McConnell, December 6, 2023

The audience gathered for California Forever’s town hall in Rio Vista fell silent for a moment, as Jan Sramek considered an answer during the question-and-answer portion of the event. Then, a single voice rose.

“Good neighbors don’t sue their neighbors,” they said, eliciting a cheer from audience members.

The accusation that California Forever has been less than neighborly to the community of just over 10,000 people – which is now partly surrounded by the company’s land purchases – was a recurring theme Tuesday evening.

Rio Vista residents seized the chance to let CEO Jan Sramek know how they feel about California Forever’s attempts to build a new city in southeastern Solano County – including its decision to pursue legal action against area farmers.

The event struck a less combative tone than a similar town hall in Vallejo last week. But questions and skepticism abounded in the packed audience of well over 100 people.

Neighbors vs. neighbors

California Forever sued a group of local farmers earlier this year alleging that they illegally colluded to increase the price of their land.

Maryn Johnson, whose family is among those named in the lawsuit, asked Sramek in the middle of the meeting to drop the litigation as a gesture of goodwill toward farmers who have been in the area for generations. He declined, after alleging that Johnson asked to settle the lawsuit previously.

California Forever CEO Jan Sramek talks about how Rio Vista and the surrounding area can benefit from having a new community in Solano County during a town hall meeting on Tuesday in the Veterans Memorial Hall in Rio Vista. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Johnson denies this and said she only invited Sramek over for Easter dinner with her family.

“I expected Jan not to commit to dropping the lawsuit,” she said in an interview. “But I think you need to ask these questions and put powerful entities in the position of stating before the public whether they will or will not act with common decency.”

Johnson said it is “patently false” that farmers colluded to fix the price of their properties, but rather that friendly conversation occurred.

“Of course we talk to each other,” she said. “Of course we have interacted with each other. The people that are named in this lawsuit are family even though we share different last names.”

Johnson, who is a teacher, said her brother continues the family tradition of farming and their family has no intention of selling the property – which is why they and others set prices so high.

“I think when you look at it from their business perspective, they did what they needed to do to acquire the land,” she said. “It wasn’t done in a trustworthy manner but I can see from their perspective why they chose to acquire land in the way that they did.”

Sramek said the lawsuit involves a small fraction of the people California Forever has done business with, and he claimed it’s evident that they broke the law.

“I think it’s quite clear,” Sramek said. “There are hundreds of people here who didn’t sell and they are not getting sued, and there are 600 people who we bought from and we are not suing them. So, it’s a small group; we’ve settled with half of them. You heard me say today ‘Hey, if you want to discuss a settlement, we can talk.’”

Skeptical residents

As in Vallejo, Sramek focused much of his presentation Tuesday on ways a new city could benefit Rio Vista’s economy, potentially bringing more jobs, restaurants and tourism to the town. He also noted California Forever’s interest in community benefits including down-payment assistance for home buyers and investments in Solano County’s existing downtowns.

The businessman highlighted his own “blue-collar” background as the son of a mechanic and a schoolteacher in a small Czech Republic town. Having left Goldman Sachs for an education company before moving on to this current project, Sramek said he doesn’t get into business ventures purely for profit.

”If I wanted to do it just to make money, I wouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

Attendees, however, had many questions about Sramek’s approach and what a new city would mean for Rio Vista.

Rio Vista resident Kenny Paul said he has a “laundry list” of concerns about the proposed development. He accused California Forever and its investors of sewing divisiveness, characterizing its opponents as “a fringe element” and “ignorant hicks.”

“In light of all this behavior, how do you expect anyone in this room or the county to believe what you’re saying?” he asked Sramek.

The CEO responded that California Forever will be placing its project in the hands of Solano County voters as a ballot initiative next November.

“Other than doing what anyone doing a project like this would do, which is buy the property, then announce it – we haven’t done anything else,” Sramek said.

Kathy Wright, superintendent of the New River Delta Unified School District, asked what this development would mean for the school district, given the district’s finite resources. Sramek said the ballot initiative would require California Forever to pay for all new students in the area, but he acknowledged that the area is currently in that school district.

One attendee noted that, although Sramek pledged there would be no development to the Sacramento River waterfront, there are renderings in California Forever promotional material that depict waterfront development. Sramek denied this, saying the company is interested in possibly building a man-made lake.

Sramek promised to return to Rio Vista for another town hall after his company announces its ballot initiative in January.

“I’ll be standing here, having people yell at me, calling me names,” he said, “but I’ll still be here talking about it.”

‘The nicest people’

Despite residents’ concerns, responses to Sramek’s presentation were more moderate than those at an explosive town hall hosted in Vallejo just days before.

Scattered claps came from the Rio Vista audience as Sramek introduced himself. Joe Scholtes of Vacaville, who moderated the event, drew chuckles as he noted local residents’ reputation for being “the nicest people.”

In Vallejo, Sramek gave attendees no formal opportunity to ask questions in a public setting, instead encouraging them to speak to company representatives at the end of the night.

Audience members in that city disregarded this request. They interrupted the meeting midway through, pelting the CEO with outbursts and accusations and arguing with his responses.

In Rio Vista, by contrast, California Forever set aside 45 minutes of the two-hour town hall for public discussion. Scholtes called on people to speak and an employee in blue jeans and a Yin Ranch baseball cap brought them a microphone.

Boos and cries of dismay erupted as Scholtes repeatedly attempted to end questions at the end of the allotted period. He closed out audience comments amid heated discussions about California Forever’s pending lawsuits.

A small handful of attendees lingered to speak one-on-one with company representatives for the last hour of the evening.

Sramek said he felt the town hall served its purpose well. He said time in these meetings has to be balanced between question-and-answer time and breakout sessions.

Town halls so far have not been livestreamed. Sramek said the company wants to maintain a more intimate feel.

“We wanted them to feel more like a neighborly event where people can ask questions,” he said.

Despite the city’s relative size, more people attended the Rio Vista town hall than the Vallejo one. California Forever required people in Vallejo to sign up for that meeting in advance. The company lifted that requirement for Rio Vista and all future town halls.

After hosting a Vacaville town hall Wednesday evening, California Forever is scheduled to hold another meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. in Willow Hall at The Fairfield Community Center.

This month’s final town halls will take place Dec. 14 at the Charles P. Stone Hall and Spenger Memorial Garden at the Benicia Historical Museum, as well as Dec. 18 in Dixon Town Hall at Dixon Olde Vets Hall. Both events will start at 6 p.m.

Latest on Flannery’s plan for new Solano City (California Forever)

[BenIndy note: We don’t often expect much good reporting from Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, but the following story is thorough, fair and timely – highly recommended. Below that are links to three recent local reports from our Vallejo paper, and a few links to Bay Area tv reports. Check ’em out and stay informed. Oh, and… you might be interested in the Change.org petition: Oppose Flannery Associates and No to California Forever.]

$1B Silicon Valley-backed utopian city ‘California Forever’ facing national security probe: pols

Solano County
Flannery Associates has bought up nearly $1 billion in land located in Solano County. AFP via Getty Images

New York Post, by Thomas Barrabi, Published Nov. 12, 2023

A planned utopian city in California continues to face a high-stakes probe by a US national security panel – and state politicians still aren’t satisfied that the secretive project isn’t linked to China.

Since 2017, a little-known firm called Flannery Associates has stealthily bought up nearly $1 billion in land next to Travis Air Force Base, sparking alarms on Capitol Hill that a foreign entity could be backing the project for nefarious purposes.

Similar concerns arose last year after a Chinese firm bought 300 acres of land near an Air Force drone base in North Dakota.

In August, Flannery tried to calm nerves by revealing its backers included US tech tycoons such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.

The group has said the land’s proximity to Travis was unintentional and outlined plans to develop a picturesque city featuring sustainable energy, a pedestrian-friendly layout and good-paying jobs.

John Garamendi
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) is among those who have raised concerns about Flannery’s origins. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Nevertheless, the US Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) – an interagency panel responsible for vetting business transactions for potential national security risks – is still actively reviewing the project as of this month, a pair of California lawmakers told The Post.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif), who previously blasted Flannery for using “strong-arm mobster techniques” to acquire land from local farmers, told The Post that the firm’s explanation to date is “only half of the story” – and claimed the project bears the hallmarks of a “patient” foreign investment scheme.

“To say it’s ‘American money’ is not a complete explanation of who is the investor,” Garamendi said. “I’ve been around long enough to understand the way foreign money – legitimate and illegitimate – is invested in the United States. Usually in an LLC, in a real estate transaction.”

Flannery Associates was originally registered as an LLC in Delaware, which does not require an ownership disclosure. The project’s organizers describe California Forever as Flannery’s parent company.

Flannery has rankled Solano County residents with vaguely-defined plans to build the city on patches of dry, unincorporated farmland that is pockmarked with wind turbines and abandoned gas wells and is known to lack enough infrastructure to support a large population.

California Forever
The first renderings of the “California Forever” project emerged earlier this fall. California Forever

Catherine Moy, the mayor of Fairfield, Calif., said the feds are “still investigating” the situation and were “not 100% that China is not behind funding on this.”

“CFIUS, they’re still going forward with their investigation. You can trust but verify, especially with things like this,” Moy said. “A couple of the investors already are very connected with China, business-wise.”

The CFIUS probe was first reported by CNN in August – weeks after it emerged that Garamendi and fellow US Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) had asked the panel and the FBI to investigate the matter.

The duo noted that Travis is a critical military transport hub known as the “Gateway to the Pacific” that serves as a key conduit for shipments to Ukraine, among other key functions.

“My concerns with the land acquisition in Solano County have always been on national security and food security,” Thompson said in a statement. “Their rapid acquisition of land around Travis Air Force Base caused concern about who was making the purchases and their ultimate goal.”

A spokesperson for Travis Air Force base confirmed that “senior officials are actively supporting all involved federal and Solano County agencies regarding the land purchases.” The spokesperson referred further questions to the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department did not return multiple requests for comment.

When reached for comment, a Flannery Associates spokesperson said the project has “no other foreign investors” beyond those it has disclosed.

The firm has said its investors are passive and have no role in day-to-day operations.

“While most area electeds have taken an open-minded approach to the opportunity our project presents for local jobs, investments, homes for middle class families, and clean power, a couple of local politicians are unfortunately and irresponsibly spreading rumors and misinformation to insinuate that California Forever is a not an American company,” the spokesperson said.

“We have complied with all government inquiries and provided documents (including all investment agreements and subscription agreements) that unquestionably prove that over 97% of our invested capital comes from U.S. investors, and that the remaining less than 3% comes from UK and Irish investors (Patrick and John Collison, with smaller stakes held by Charles Songhurst and Thomas Mather),” the spokesperson added.

Fairfield, California mayor Catherine Moy
Fairfield, California mayor Catherine Moy is an outspoken critic of the city project. fairfield.ca.gov

So far, the list of publicly-disclosed Flannery investors includes Hoffman, Andreesen, his investment firm Andreesen Horowitz, former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, Chris Dixon, John Dooer, Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross and Laurene Powell Jobs, the prominent philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Moritz spent nearly four decades at Sequoia Capital and helped spearhead the venture firm’s expansion into China before exiting last June. Sequoia Capital itself has not been linked to Flannery Associates or the “California Forever” project, though the House Select Committee on China recently revealed it was probing the firm’s investments and business interests in China.

Moritz did not immediately return requests for comment.

A Sequoia Capital spokesperson confirmed that the firm had received the select committee’s letter about the probe, was “reviewing it and will respond.”

Jan Sramek.
Flannery Associates CEO Jan Srakek has denied that his firm wants to build a “utopian” city.  KGO-TV

Flannery CEO Jan Sramek has scrambled to downplay the project’s ties to the tech industry, describing it as a “city of yesterday.”

Its website specifically rejects the notion that it is building a “tech utopia” and said Flannery is “not proposing a pie-in-the-sky ‘utopian’ fantasy.”

Critics, including Garamendi and Moy, argue that Sramek and his team are merely trying to reframe the project due to local backlash.

“The story has changed,” Moy said. “Any credibility he was trying to earn after being secretive for five years is being lost because he’s changing the story now. That’s what happens with people who you can’t trust.”

Cars on Highway 12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

California Forever form community advisory committee | Company makes statement ahead of SCWA meeting
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 9, 2023
>> California Forever announced a community advisory committee, full of current and formal public officials and community leaders from across Solano County. The committee, according to a press release from the company… (continued)

California Forever CEO Jan Sramek during a packed Solano County Water Agency meeting in Vacaville. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

Turning off the tap | SCWA directs staff not to discuss Water Plus with California Forever
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 10, 2023
>> The Solano County Water Agency Board of Directors told its staff not to continue discussions with California Forever regarding their proposed development project in eastern Solano County.   At a regular meeting of the board Thursday evening, over 90 attendees and public commenters filled the meeting room… (continued)

Sheep graze in a plot of land east of CA 113.  (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

What would a new Solano County city mean for Vallejo? | California Forever promises high-paying jobs; officials question company’s approach
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 11, 2023
>> With stances ranging from skepticism to outright hostility, Vallejo officials are pushing back against what they say is a shamelessly ambitious plan to construct a new city of between 100,000 and 400,000 people in eastern Solano County…. (continued)


NBC BAY AREA NEWS: ‘California Forever’ CEO shows tour of proposed site amid uphill battle with Solano County residents, leaders, by Jodi Hernandez, Nov 10, 2023

KTVU Fox News: California Forever: 1st tour of Solano County land bought for $800M under mysterious circumstances, by KTVU staff, Nov 10, 2023

KXTV ABC10 Sacramento: California Forever proposes land swap, $1M toward habitat conservation, by Devin Trubey, Krys Shahin, Nov 11, 2023

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


Solano Public Health data on Feb. 9: A new surge? Or just playing catch-up?

NOTE: The information below is not the latest.  TAP HERE for today’s latest information.

By Roger Straw, Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Solano County reported 2,794 new infections over the last two days!  Solano County and Benicia continue to experience an extremely high transmission rate!

Solano Public Health COVID dashboard, Wednesday, February 9, 2022:

DEATHS:  Solano reported no new deaths in today’s report.  Trending: Seven new deaths reported so far in February, all over 65 years of age.  The County has seen increasing COVID-related deaths each month since last November, rising to 30 in January.  (Compare with last winter: 24 deaths in January 2021, 42 in February and 33 in March.)  A total of 388 Solano residents have now died of COVID or COVID-related causes over the course of the pandemic.

CASES BY AGE GROUP: My color-coded chart (below) shows a record over TIME.  It shows an alarming steady increase among youth and children in Solano County.  The chart displays quarterly and recent snapshots in time by age group, each as a percentage of total cases since the outbreak began.  Increases are in red and decreases are in green as reported by Solano County.  Note the continuing increase among children & youth of Solano County.  The population of those age 0-17 in Solano County is roughly 22%.COMPARE – U.S. cases among children and youth aged 0-17 as percentage of total cases is 17.4% as of today.  (From the CDC covid-data-tracker.)

COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE: Solano is experiencing an EXTREMELY HIGH transmission rate, with a total of 4,010 new cases over the last 7 days, a big jump from 1,763 at last report, and way up from around 500 at Christmastime.  CDC FORMULA: Based on Solano County’s population, 450 or more cases in 7 days places Solano in the CDC’s population-based definition of a HIGH transmission rate.  We would need to drop below 225 cases in 7 days to rate as having only MODERATE community transmission.

ACTIVE CASES: Solano’s 2,517 ACTIVE cases today is up from 2,308 at last report, and well over the 2,000 active cases we had at the New Year and only 329 on December 1.

CASES BY CITY – Wednesday, February 9, 2022:

  • BENICIA added 58 new cases today, a total of 2,922 cases since the outbreak began.  TRANSMISSION RATE: Benicia has seen 100 new infections in the last 7 days, far above the CDC’s HIGH rate of community transmission. For a city with Benicia’s population, anything over 27 cases in 7 days is considered HIGH TRANSMISSION. (See chart below.)  MASKS: >> At next week’s Benicia City Council meeting, (Tues., Feb. 15), Council will consider whether and how to continue the citywide face mask mandate, in light of the State of California’s announcement that it will lift the statewide mandate on Feb. 16. >>Note that the Benicia City Council is considering adding multiple metrics rather than the single metric of the CDC’s 7-day case count to determine when it is safe to lift certain COVID restrictions (see Benicia Chooses to Continue Mask Mandate, 1/19/22)Note above that Solano County is currently also experiencing EXTREMELY HIGH transmission.

  • Dixon added 62 new cases today, total of 4,020 cases.
  • Fairfield added 1,247(!) new cases today, total of 20,349 cases.
  • Rio Vista added 27 new cases today, total of 1,040 cases.
  • Suisun City added 302(!) new cases today, total of 5,379 cases.
  • Vacaville added 443 new cases today, a total of 18,706 cases.
  • Vallejo added 653 new cases today, a total of 24,051 cases.
  • Unincorporated added 2 new cases today, a total of 188 cases.

TEST RATE:  Solano County’s 7-Day Percent Positive Test Rate shot up after Christmas and has continued through today’s very high 19%, (although today’s report shows a drop from 21% at last report.)  SOLANO DOES NOT COMPARE FAVORABLY: The California 7-day % positive rate fell to 6.7% today.  [Source: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracking Center]  The U.S. 7-day % positive rate also fell today to 13.63% from 15.85% at last report. [Source: CDC COVID Data Tracker.] 


CURRENT hospitalizations fell today from 87 to 80 persons.  Currently hospitalized persons in Solano peaked higher than ever before on Jan 22, at 207 persons in hospital. (The County’s previous high was 176 on Jan 7, 2021.)

TOTAL hospitalizations – Solano Public Health updated its age and race hospitalizations charts today, adding 1 Asian person, age 65+.  Our total since the beginning of the outbreak is now 3,512 hospitalizations.

ICU Bed Availability in Solano County remained steady today at 24% available, still in the Yellow danger zone.

Ventilator Availability  fell dramatically today from 64% to 51% available

HOW DOES TODAY’S REPORT COMPARE?  See recent reports and others going back to April 20, 2020 in my ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).

>The data on this page is from the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard.  The Dashboard is full of much more information and updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 4 or 5pm.  On the County’s dashboard, you can hover a mouse or click on an item for more information.  Note the tabs at top for “Summary, Demographics” and “Vaccines.”  Click here to go to today’s Solano County Dashboard.

See also my BENINDY ARCHIVE of daily Solano COVID updates (an excel spreadsheet).  I have also archived the hundreds of full CORONAVIRUS REPORTS posted here almost daily on the Benicia Independent since April 2020.