Over 100 unexplained Northern California land purchases in excess of $800 million create suspicion and speculation of 15 minute neighborhoods.
Flannery Associates LLC, a company consisting of billionaire tech titans, has surreptitiously bought up large swaths of land (55,000 acres) in Solano County, California. Flannery revealed their plans to build an “experimental city” quite reluctantly, only after the massive land grab around Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, a city of about 120,000 residents, triggered suspicions of a foreign entity planning possible nefarious activities. This experimental city already has a name — California Forever — and is envisioned to be a utopian, walkable, liveable and sustainable new city where agricultural and barren land previously stood.
Flannery representative Brian Brokaw is “proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County. We are excited to start working with residents and elected officials, as well as with Travis Air Force Base, on making that happen.” WSJ
Flannery faces a PR battle because they will have to nudge county constituents to approve land development. The headline banner for the California Forever website reads “Starting a conversation about eastern Solano Country,” a bizarre statement, given local opposition and severe allegations that local landowners have illegally conspired to drive up land prices. What really took place is Flannery offered landowners grossly inflated prices and then falsely accused the landowners of price-fixing and conspiring to drive up their land values.
Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy stands firmly against these plans. Moy met with U.S. Rep. John Garamendi and two Solano County Board of Supervisors to devise what she calls “a plan of defense.”
“It’s not our first rodeo,” said Moy, referring to a failed 1984 project named Manzanita to construct a new city in Solano.
Folks are hopping mad that Flannery went on a multiple-year secretive buying spree. “The one thing Flannery has done is brought us together,” says Moy.” Moy has received hundreds of messages from ordinary citizens, environmentalists, other developers, and politicians, over 95% of whom are opposed to the project.
Moy was first tipped off regarding Flannery while still a city council member when a local farmer informed her, “We’ve got a problem out here. Somebody’s buying land…it’s a lot of land.” Moy got wind of stories of Flannery representatives upping the ante on prices offered to farmers and then hiking prices further if the farmers turned down their offers.
In response to these activities, Moy said, “It’s disrespectful, and it reminds me so much of why people get angry about our financial systems in the United States, where you have these billionaires that can come in and just play with us like toys.”
The moral of the utopian city tale
California desperately needs housing, especially affordable homes for ordinary folks, but residents are skeptical of Flannery’s motivation to create “a city for the elite” under the guise of more affordable housing. U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, whose district includes Travis Air Force Base and surrounding areas, was horrified to learn who was backing the project. “You big wealthy Silicon Valley Billionaires, you’re a party to all this. This is the kind of people you are? This is how you want to operate? What they’ve managed to do is poison the well.” AP News
Elected officials such as Garamendi would be wise to listen to their voters and eschew a development that displays a lack of understanding or appreciation of the region and its values.
Free Now Foundation stands with grass-roots efforts to maintain and grow real communities, not ones dictated by billionaire elites.*
*Who is Flannery Associates LLC?
The Guardian reports that Flannery Associates LLC purchased more than 100 plots of land from farmers in excess of market value, making Flannery the single largest landowner in Solano County. These purchases were made by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman-Sachs trader backed with $800 million in funds from some of tech’s most prominent industry investors, which include Sequoia Capital’s former Chairman Mike Moritz; Linked-In co-founder Reed Hoffman; venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon; Laurene Powell Jobs, a philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; Nate Friedman, former CEO of GitHub, and Patrick and John Collison, co-founders of Stripe. (Bloomberg)
Katherine Strange, MBA, is a writer, entrepreneur, and citizen journalist with over 25 years of experience in the wine and spirits trade. She is passionate about research and analysis, and enjoys writing about complex topics and issues. Katherine is also an avid fitness enthusiast, dog lover, and beach-goer, and she spends her free time traveling and gardening with her husband and son. You may also find her at katherinestrange.substack.com – Strange On The Frontlines