Category Archives: Solano County Water Agency

Solano Together responds to California Forever’s Released Map and Ballot Initiative

[Note from BenIndy: Please bear with us for posting more than usual but Solano Together has responded to the initiative and map released by California Forever and it’s worth your time to see what they have to say. Once again, you can check out California Forever’s full, 83-page initiative text HERE. Sign up to learn more about Solano Together HERE. Images shown below are not original to the Solano Together news release and were added by BenIndy.]

Click the image to enlarge. A map of where California Forever plans on putting its new city in Solano County, right between Travis Air Force Base and Rio Vista. | California Forever / Handout via SFGate.

Solano Together, released January 17, 2024

SUISUN CITY – The Solano Together coalition strongly opposes California Forever’s plans for a sprawling new development in rural Solano County announced this Wednesday. After years of secrecy, months of public controversy, and four months of rushed community engagement, Flannery Associates shared initial glimpses of their new proposed community in Southeastern Solano County.

For Solano Together, the details revealed today did not come as a surprise: California Forever continues to be a senseless sprawl development in a remote, undeveloped part of Solano County. These types of projects divert much needed public and private resources away from cities and residents, leaving existing infrastructure to degrade and residents to suffer.

Flannery Associates are going for the “christmas tree” approach for the proposal, trying to sprinkle financial benefits to specific interest groups around the County in a way that distracts from the negative impact of the proposal on water, county resources, traffic, and taxpayers in existing cities.

Jobs: We’ve seen countless development proposals adopted by cities around the region with promises for jobs, only later to go back to ask for modifications in the proposal based on a change in market conditions. And we also know from experience that nearby cities are often in direct competition for companies and services that do want to locate in an area. Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville have all invested significant resources in attracting new jobs to their community. Flannery’s incentives to lure those jobs away from the population centers of the county to this new development will only harm our communities and reduce opportunities for existing residents. Based on this track record, the idea of 15,000 new jobs in this area is an empty promise.

Taxpayer Money: The plan purports to be a new approach to development, but its physical location—far away from jobs, services, and infrastructure—points to more of the same, investing scarce public funds in expanding infrastructure rather than investing in improvements for long-time residents. Flannery Associates’ proposal spins their small investment in infrastructure upgrades, such as roads and water pipes, as a huge benefit to the community, when the project relies on millions of dollars of public investment for new roads, sewer and water, and schools, funds that will need to be diverted from other priorities.

Solano Together members waved signs at the California Forever Benicia Town Hall on December 18, 2023. | BenIndy.

What Solano Together Coalition supporters are saying:

“Buying up farmland at low prices and rezoning for housing development has been a quick way to make a buck for decades in California. The plans we’ve seen fly in the face of decades of thoughtful planning and action that was first set into motion to protect Solano’s cherished agricultural industries. Developing highly productive ranch lands into urban uses cannot be undone. We cannot continue to allow developers to put food security, long-term sustainability, and livelihoods on the line in exchange for short-term profits.”—Solano Farm Bureau.

“California Forever has no real plans for public transportation or transit. This development is going to clog our streets, highways, and bridges. It will make our climate worse by paving over farmlands—all while making Solano residents pay the cost”—Duane Kromm, member of the Orderly Growth Committee and former Solano County Board Supervisor.

“California Forever’s proposed plans are a detriment to wildlife, native plant life, and water resources that our ecology and communities depend on. We need to protect Solano County’s open space now and for the future. You don’t need to be an environmentalist to ask: ‘What sort of world are we going to leave our future generations?’”—Princess Washington, Mayor Pro-Tem of Suisun City & Chair of the Sierra Club of Solano County.

“Sprawling developments such as California Forever don’t just permanently destroy nature, habitat for wildlife, and farm and ranchland. These developments also divert much needed public and private resources away from cities and residents. Instead of abandoning our existing cities for something shiny and new, we believe the truly visionary approach would be to make transformative investments in them, improving the lives for both current and future residents.”—Sadie Wilson, Director of Planning and Research at Greenbelt Alliance.

“Flannery Associates’ plans to take surface water from the Sacramento River and/or pump groundwater from the Solano subbasin to support a whole new city would further stress critical water resources in Solano County and the Delta, and threaten to undo recent progress made to manage water resources sustainably and responsibly for future generations.”—Osha Meserve, Lawyer specializing in water and environmental impacts.

“I see nothing in the plans that protects Travis Air Force Base. California Forever’s promises mean nothing if Travis is forced to close due to housing encroachment, glare from 10,000 acres of solar farms, and noise complaints from new residents where sheep now graze. In fact, they aren’t building a city, they’re sprawling housing over 18,000 acres without legally creating a city. That could very well endanger Travis’ mission.”—Catherine Moy, Mayor of Fairfield

Solano Together’s top priorities are to drive growth, development, and economic investment into the county’s existing cities and protect the invaluable agricultural and environmental resources that are central to our community and industries. California Forever fails to do that by doubling down on a pattern of sprawl development that endangers the livelihoods of the agricultural community and taxes Solano’s crucial natural resources such as water, land, habitats, and ecosystems.


Learn more about Solano Together here. For more information, contact: Daniela Ades,, 1-415-792-9226

First map of proposed utopian California city in Solano County is released

[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.]

Click the image to enlarge. A map of where California Forever plans on putting its new city in Solano County, right between Travis Air Force Base and Rio Vista. | California Forever / Handout via SFGate.

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.

Farmland and wind farms in the background in rural Solano County. | Godofredo A. Vásquez / AP.

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.

People find seats as they get more information on the new California Forever proposed development off Highway 12 near Rio Vista during a town hall meeting on Thursday. | Chris Riley / Times-Herald.

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:

Opinion: Billionaires Turn to Legal Bribery in Quest to Build Utopia

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero. | The Daily Beast / Getty.

Daily Beast, by Michael Daly, December 21, 2023

The tech billionaires seeking to build a shining new city in Northern California started with secrecy and pressure tactics.

They are now resorting to what amounts to bribery disguised as philanthropy.

The initially anonymous investor group operating under the generic name of Flannery Associates—which now calls itself California Forever—generated widespread suspicion during the five years it purchased more than $800 million worth of largely agricultural land in Solano County.

As anyone outside Silicon Valley could have foreseen, the billionaires sowed considerable ill will when they filed a $510 million antitrust suit against those who balked at accepting even an inflated price for farmland that has been in their families for generations.

The result was a series of decidedly negative receptions at six town halls that California Forever CEO Jan Sramek began hosting in late November. As Sramek has acknowledged, the project will need voter approval to build on land that is now zoned solely for agriculture.

In a cynical ploy at the final town hall meeting Monday, Sramek announced that California Forever is accepting applications for $500,000 in “community grants” to local nonprofits.

“For too long, nonprofits in Solano County have received far less funding when compared to other Bay Area counties,” Sramek said. “The California Forever project wants to help narrow that funding gap.”

Sramek was citing a United Way study, which found that Solano County has 6 percent of the Bay Area’s population, but gets less than 1 percent of the funding for nonprofits. He spoke as if California Forever is seeking to right a wrong in the county where it is wagering nearly $1 billion that it can change local use laws and make the super-rich even richer.

But where were Sramek and his deep-pocketed billionaires before they decided they needed to buy votes along with more than 60,000 acres? They could have donated to Solano groups at any point if they were so concerned about the disparity. California Forever did not respond to a Daily Beast request for comment.

A 22-year-old named Aiden Mayhood, whose family has been farming in the county for seven generations, was at Monday’s meeting. He later told The Daily Beast that many of those in attendance recognized Sramek’s offer for what it was.

“A lot of people I think viewed it as almost like bribing,” Mayhood said.

Sramek named six “initial recipients” of the grants, among them the Solano Land Trust. For the county’s conservation organization to have accepted a grant from California Forever implied some measure of approval. And farmers such as Al Medvitz, who have conservation easement arrangements with the Trust, were concerned.

“That creates some consternation for us,” Medvitz told The Daily Beast.

But Medvitz reassured himself that he and the other farmers should still trust the Trust even when billionaires were involved

“Money is pretty powerful, but it isn’t all-powerful,” he said.

As it turns out, Sramek’s performance at the town hall meeting was misleading. The Solano Land Trust says it neither sought nor received funding from California Forever.

“No, we haven’t applied for a grant,” the trust’s executive director, Nicole Braddock, told The Daily Beast.

Braddock said the trust received a personal, anonymous donation that turned out to be from Sramek and his wife for its Put a Child on The Land program, in which school kids visit pristine undeveloped spaces such as Lynch Canyon.

“We’re learning that the donor no longer considers it anonymous, which is why I can talk to you about it,” she said.

She also said, “We never take money from individuals or businesses that require endorsement support, favors influence or quid pro quo. That wasn’t part of this or any other donation that we take. And we also have taken no position on the plans of Flannery/California Forever.”

A road sign is posted near a parcel of land purchased by Flannery Associates near Rio Vista, California. | Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty.


The donation from Sramek and his wife was made at the Solano Land Trust’s annual Sunday Supper in October. The fundraiser was also attended by Maryn Anderson, a 34-year-old high school teacher whose father is a fourth-generation Solano County farmer and has refused to sell. She introduced herself to Sramek.

“I said, ‘Hi, my name’s Maryn Anderson,’ and he immediately knew who I was,” she recalled. “And I said, ‘You are suing me and my family and my community for $510 million.’”

She later told The Daily Beast, “My main message to him was, ‘You have big amends to make in this county if you really want to go forward with this project. I don’t want you to be successful, but I’m telling you, if you do want to go forward, you have amends to make, specifically with how you’ve treated many of the farmers.”

She concluded that Sramek does not understand that most of the people who did sell to him are no longer active farmers and were only leasing their property to those who are. Many active farmers have a deep attachment to the land that seems beyond Sramek’s comprehension.

“He just can’t see why we wouldn’t sell,” she recalled.

Of the California Forever crew, she says, “It was like we confused them when we said, ‘No, there’s not really an amount of money that we would sell for. We care about what we do. We believe in what we do. We believe in agriculture.’ They would just look at you like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ You know, it doesn’t compute that money couldn’t buy something.”

Anderson saw Sramek again at a town hall in Rio Vista on Dec. 5. She rose to speak and offered him a way to make amends.

“Will you commit to dropping the lawsuit against the local farmers who are not aligned with your vision, in a goodwill attempt to change the way that you are interacting with our community?” she asked.

Sramek seemed to believe that the farmers who did not sell were conspiring to hold out for more.

“Illegal and criminal,” he said.

California Forever has pressed ahead with the lawsuit even as Ian Anderson and his co-defendants filed a pending motion to dismiss on the grounds there was no wrongdoing. The mounting legal bills are enough to ruin a farmer.

“They, they want us to get in line or get outta the way, and they’re happy to… crush you in order to get what they want,” Anderson said.

And now that its disgraceful behavior leaves it in need of currying favor with voters, billionaire-backed California Forever suddenly says it wants to ensure Solano County’s nonprofits get their fair share.

The nerve of these people.

More about California Forever on the Benicia Independent:

California Forever reveals plan B if ballot measure fails

People find seats as they get more information on the new California Forever proposed development off Highway 12 near Rio Vista during a town hall meeting on Thursday. | Chris Riley / Times-Herald.

Company spars with Solano Together leader at Benicia meeting

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Daniel Egitto, December 15, 2023

Amid skepticism at a town hall meeting in Benicia, California Forever clarified some key aspects of its plan to build a city-sized community in Solano County.

Fresh information arrived in CEO Jan Sramek’s response to a question about what the company will do if, in November, it fails to pass a ballot initiative to make this project possible. He said in an interview earlier this month that “there are other ways to proceed with the project” if the plan falls through and declined to elaborate.

Sramek clarified Thursday that California Forever owns about 800 acres of land within Rio Vista city limits. If Solano County won’t play ball, he’ll attempt to get that land zoned as residential and build on it.

This would be a less ambitious project and, in Sramek’s view, less beneficial for the area.

“We think that would be a bad idea for Solano County because if we’re doing it piecewise, that wouldn’t help us to bring in employers,” he said.

Answering other concerns about where the company would find enough water for the new development, Sramek said the current plan is to buy water that is currently irrigating almond groves. Sramek said many of these almonds are getting shipped to China, which he sees as a waste of a precious resource.

“We don’t have a shortage of water in California. We have a misuse of water,” he said.

Speakers also raised a variety of other questions about the project. Vallejo resident Michelle Pellegrin argued that while California Forever claims the development would benefit Solano County, its investors’ main goal is “to make a whole hell of a lot of money.”

“This is making money. This is not being nice to people. There’s a huge difference,” Pellegrin said.

Benicia resident Gregg Horton also took aim at a remark by Sramek that he spent a year trying to fix housing crises within existing Bay Area cities, but “became convinced that that wouldn’t be enough to make homes affordable.”

“I find that kind of awful because we have people in this room who have been working for decades on this kind of thing,” Horton said.

Sramek responded that it would be impossible to raise as much capital as California Forever has by attempting to infill existing cities. He also denied the implication that only nonprofit ventures can help people.

“I don’t shy from the fact that this is a for-profit investment. But I think that it’s a false distinction to say that that’s somehow bad,” he said.

Later in the evening, Sramek and Aiden Mayhood, founder of the anti-California Forever coalition Solano Together, went head to head in an argument about a Solano County Water Agency meeting last month.

At that meeting, the agency’s board of directors considered a California Forever proposal to potentially fund a study into improving a key Solano County waterline. The company had claimed that their funding would come with “no strings attached,” but a crowd of over 100 people packed the meeting and overwhelmingly spoke out in opposition.

The agency’s board of directors voted against the proposal, citing community concerns.

Discussing this pipeline, Sramek named Mayhood and originally attempted to blame him for the water agency’s decision – but attendees shouted him down.

Mayhood rejected Sramek’s statement that the agency’s vote took place “because people showed up and yelled at the electeds long enough that they agreed not to do it.”

“It was a question of trust. Can we trust these people?” the organizer said. “And personally, I don’t find them trustworthy.”

California Forever’s final town hall this year will take place at 6 p.m. Monday at 231 North First St. in Dixon.

More about California Forever on the Benicia Independent: