Thursday, February 29, 2024

Supporters of California’s new city woo voters, woo critics

The company, backed by Silicon Valley billionaires, has secretly acquired more than $800 million worth of rural land for a new walkable, affordable, and green city between San Francisco and Sacramento. It is now up to the voters to accept the idea.

Jan Sramek, the former Goldman Sachs trader, led the effort. His California Forever company needs approval from Solano County voters to bypass protections put in place in 1984 to prevent agricultural land from becoming urban space.

Last week, he unveiled ballot language that would provide a more detailed look at the community he envisions and his billionaire backers, such as philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. If the group gets 13,000 signatures from Solano County voters, the measure will go to the voters this November.

They envision 20,000 homes for 50,000 residents between Travis Air Force Base and the small town of Rio Vista, with rowhouses and apartments within walking distance of jobs, schools, bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. Eventually, the city can grow to 400,000 people, the group says, but only if it can create at least 15,000 jobs that pay above-average wages.

Since being created in 2017, California Forever has purchased over 78 square miles of farmland in Solano County. The plan calls for $400 million to help Solano County residents buy homes in the proposed community.

Sramek made his pitch in a series of town hall-style forums in December around the county, but the new wave of transparency hasn’t silenced critics who have been skeptical of the project since the mysterious land purchases began years ago. has passed.

“It’s a pipe dream,” said Democratic US Rep. John Garamendi, who is angry with those who support their secrecy about the property near the US Air Force base.

He said the proposed development, which he also announced, makes no sense “in the middle of areas surrounded by wind farms, gas fields, endangered species, no water, no There’s no sanitation system and no road system any more than a highway system.”

Beyond its agricultural use, the land targeted by California Forever is in the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a sensitive estuary that is home to many fish and wildlife species. The Delta is also the center of California’s surplus water supply system. Critics of the project worry that adding more development will further damage the already threatened ecosystem.

But backers of the project say Solano County is a good location to build in a region desperate for more housing, especially affordable housing for teachers, firefighters, police, and others. municipal workers who run a town.

Solano County is an attractive location for military contractors, agricultural technology companies, and construction technology companies looking to innovate, said Gabriel Metcalf, head of planning for California Forever.

Metcalf said if “we can give companies a path to growth, we think we can get some big employers to create jobs here that would otherwise go out of state, to places like Texas.”

PictureFile: In this aerial photo is a farm in rural Solano County, California, on August 30, 2023. The people behind a secretive Silicon Valley-backed ballot initiative to build a new farm city between Sacramento and San Francisco are releasing more details on their plan as they submit papers by Wednesday, January 17, 2024, to be eligible for the November election.

World Nation News Desk
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