A covert campaign by Silicon Valley elites to transform a vast expanse of California farmland into a futuristic city has triggered a backlash from local ranchers. The project, known as California Forever, came to light when parcels of land in the rural area between San Francisco and Sacramento were secretly purchased by a mysterious buyer. Unveiling themselves as Flannery Associates, this enigmatic outfit is the brainchild of Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs prodigy. The project boasts high-profile backers such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Steve Jobs), and tech investor Marc Andreessen. With a staggering investment of over $800 million already made, Flannery Associates claims ownership of more than 50,000 acres of land for the California Forever project.
The unveiling of California Forever has left residents in Solano County, where the project is concentrated, questioning the motives and tactics of the influential backers. Solano County property owner John Sweeney, standing on a property surrounded by Flannery-owned land, expressed his concerns. Sweeney remarked, “This doesn’t just happen at Burning Man one night, doing some mushrooms,” highlighting the secretive and seemingly manipulative nature of the project. Locals recall Flannery’s covert acquisition of parcels dating back five years, with tactics ranging from underhanded tricks to relentless solicitations. Some property owners, including Cassandra Dana, have reported unsolicited offers and continuous harassment from Flannery Associates. The company even reached out to Dana’s daughter, attempting to persuade her to sell the property without her mother’s knowledge.
According to Flannery Associates’ website, the California Forever project aims to create a new city that integrates agriculture, green energy, and a strong middle-class community. The proposed city, nestled in between Sacramento, the California Delta, San Francisco, and Napa Valley, would house solar farms, open spaces for agriculture and habitat conservation, and state-of-the-art infrastructure to support the nation’s busiest Air Force base. However, transitioning from vision to reality will not be without hurdles. Flannery has filed a half-billion-dollar lawsuit against several landowners, accusing them of conspiring to drive up property prices. Local landowners like Sweeney argue that waiting for higher offers is merely logical, rather than a targeted plot against Flannery. Opposition to the project is growing, with Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy expressing concerns about the impact on Travis Air Force Base, a critical transport hub. The community surrounding the base currently consists of livestock, wind turbines, and farmers living in harmony with the military facility. Concerned citizens have written letters to California Governor Gavin Newsom, urging him to address the implications of the California Forever project.
A Lack of Transparency
Despite the ambitious vision presented on the project’s website, there is a notable absence of concrete plans and details. Water supply, a fundamental necessity for any thriving city, is conspicuously missing from the information provided. The lack of transparency raises valid concerns about the project’s feasibility and long-term sustainability. Property owner Sweeney aptly refers to the project as the “Never Project,” raising doubts about the promised utopia’s compatibility with the surrounding rural area.
The California Forever project has ignited controversy and raised important questions. While the vision of transforming farmland into a sustainable city may sound appealing, the secretive tactics employed by Flannery Associates and the lack of transparency surrounding the project have understandably triggered skepticism among locals. As the battle between Silicon Valley elites and Solano County ranchers continues, only time will tell whether the California Forever project turns out to be a dream or a nightmare for all parties involved.