Campaign to erect new city on Solano County ranchland submits signatures for November ballot

A billionaire-backed vision to erect an idealistic new city on scrubby grassland in rural Solano County is one step closer to becoming reality.

On Tuesday, the Bay Area tech leaders behind the campaign, dubbed California Forever, held a news conference to announce that they had turned over more than 20,000 voter signatures to the Solano County registrar in support of putting the issue before local voters. If the county validates at least 13,062 of those signatures, the measure would go before voters in November, seeking to amend zoning codes to allow the residential project to be built on agricultural land.

“Solano voters have made their first decision, and they have made it loud and clear,” said Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader who is chief executive of California Forever. “People from all walks of life, all parts of the county are all saying the same thing. They are saying, ‘Yes, we want to have a say in the future of this place that we love.’ ”

John Gardner, the county’s assistant registrar of voters, confirmed his office had received the California Forever signatures Tuesday morning.

Gardner said the endeavor marks the first citizen-led ballot initiative in Solano County in more than 30 years. His office has until June 11 to conduct a preliminary review to determine whether enough valid signatures were submitted to put the measure to a vote.

Along with Sramek, backers of the project include LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and Patrick and John Collison, who founded the payment-processing company Stripe. As part of their campaign, California Forever in March released an aerial view of the group’s plans for a community of tens of thousands of homes, surrounded by open space and trails, using renewable energy sources.

Backers tout the project as an innovative way to create more affordable housing in close proximity to the Bay Area. The designs call for transforming 18,000 acres now dedicated to ranching and wind farms into a community of 50,000 residents that grows, over time, to as many as 400,000. The project promises 15,000 higher-paying jobs in manufacturing and technology, as well as parks, bike lanes and a solar farm.

Even if the measure is certified for the November ballot and voters approve it, the project faces a number of challenges and regulatory hurdles. Chief among those are additional approvals, including from the federal government, and the specter of lawsuits from environmental groups that have signaled they intend to take the nascent effort to court.

The project’s development began years ago with a series of mysterious land purchases by a secretive LLC called Flannery Associates. The group bought thousands of acres of farmland, totaling more than $800 million, over several years, raising concerns it was a front for foreign actors seeking to spy on nearby Travis Air Force Base.

Instead, the group’s members were revealed not as spies but as titans of the tech industry laying the groundwork for a model city that California Forever and its supporters say will help recast California’s image. While environmentalists and other critics have questioned that claim, the outfit pledges that the city will be green, walkable and socioeconomically diverse.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top