[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