Published date:September 28, 2023
Last updated date:September 30, 2023
For the wealthy tech professionals behind a recent Solano County land purchase, California really is the land of dreams.
Billionaire investors operating under a land acquisition company called Flannery Associates LLC have completed the purchase of 55,000 acres in Solano County, California, situated between Sacramento and San Francisco in the southeastern part of the state. Their plan: create a “City of Yesterday,” with utopian-esque ideals based on the “great old American neighborhoods” of years’ past.
The county’s response? Not so fast.
The 55,000 acres includes roughly 400 parcels of land previously owned by family farmers and currently zoned for agricultural use, rather than the urban development zoning needed for the project. Rezoning the area for urban development would negatively impact both other farmers in the area and the county’s Travis Air Force Base, argued U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield in a state hearing in August, the latter of which was not informed of the group’s plan until five years after it began its purchasing endeavor.
Flannery Associates’ billionaire investors, a mysterious group of tech professionals going under the collective name California Forever, aren’t letting local pushback stop them from attempting to move forward with their imagined utopia. The “City of Yesterday,” according to the group, would be based on things like middle-class housing, good local jobs, environmental stewardship, and walkable neighborhoods. But while their intentions may be good, Solano County officials and residents aren’t fond of the secrecy that has existed behind the project.
Among the plan’s detractors are the Greenbelt Alliance, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization focused on combating climate change in the Bay Area. Speaking to the Chronicle, Greenbelt Alliance executive director Amanda Brown-Stevens accused the California Forever group of “doubling down” on the “failed approaches that put us in this situation.” Brown-Stevens went on to argue that the planned city would do little more than contribute to sprawl in the Bay, rather than offering improvements to existing urban centers and transit infrastructure.
Other arguments against the development include the deceptive tactics that California Forever allegedly used in order to purchase the land from its previous owners, many of whom were reluctant to sell. There is further hesitancy around the group itself, which has so far not given up the names of any of its officers or investors.
Ultimately, it’s up to Solano County voters to decide whether or not to allow the land to be rezoned from its current agricultural use status. Further allowances would need to be made in terms of the land’s entitlement and permit processes as well – a task overseen by a variety of local, state, and federal agencies.
The most recent vote on the affected land parcels took place in 2008, when voters reaffirmed an Orderly Growth Measure to maintain the land’s agricultural purpose. And although California Forever representatives have expressed their willingness to seek voter approval on their project, the group has not yet come forward with any concrete proposals.
As for what’s next on the agenda for the “City of Yesterday,” we’ll have to wait and see. But with $800 million already invested, it’s unlikely that California Forever will be giving up on Solano County anytime soon.
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