A group of Silicon Valley investors which purchased vast swathes of land in Northern California has said it now has all the acreage it needs to create a new ‘walkable and green’ utopian city.
Flannery Associates LLC has spent more than $800 million discreetly buying up areas around Travis Air Force Base in Solano County over several years, for a project dubbed ‘California Forever’.
The billionaires behind the group, whose identities were finally revealed at the end of August, acquired around 814 more acres in October, meaning it now owns more than 53,000 acres in the region.
Flannery says the proposed new city will be ‘walkable and green’, create thousands of jobs and ‘bring back the California Dream’ – against the backdrop of the steep economic and social decline of nearby San Francisco.
But the project has been criticized by locals over potential impacts on the agricultural economy and air base security.
A billionaire group which bought vast swathes of land in Northern California said it now has all the acreage it needs to create a new utopian city which will be ‘walkable and green’. (Pictured: an artistic depiction of the proposed city from the California Forever website)
The investor group, whose identities were finally revealed at the end of August , acquired around 814 more acres in October, according to county records, meaning it now owns more than 53,000 acres in the region
Flannery Associates is led by former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek (pictured) and it has the backing of tech moguls including former Sequoia Capital Chairman Mike Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen
Meanwhile, Flannery is embroiled in a $510 million lawsuit with local landowners it accuses of colluding to inflate the value of their land, according to court filings seen by DailyMail.com.
Despite mounting tensions, the group has said its project is gathering pace – indicating it now has all the land necessary to begin construction on the city.
‘With regards to future purchases, except for a few remaining properties that Flannery has under contract and will close on in the coming weeks, Flannery has assembled all the land it needs and does not anticipate making any additional purchases,’ the company said in a statement.
On the investors’ website outlining their vision, they say they aim to build ‘a new community, solar farms, and a greenbelt of agriculture and habitat in eastern Solano County’.
‘Doing so would bring thousands of good paying jobs, new paths to middle-class home ownership in safe, walkable neighborhoods, and a new source of clean power for every resident of Solano County,’ the website adds.
Flannery Associates is led by former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek, 36, and it has the backing of tech moguls including former Sequoia Capital Chairman Mike Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.
But local politicians have raised concerns about the covert operations of the group.
Mayor Catherine Moy, who serves the city of Fairfield in Solano County, said she knew nothing about the group, while Congressman John Garamendi also raised concerns that their plans could pose a risk to national security.
Moy and Garamendi said last month that they’re formulating ‘a plan for defense’ against the encroachment of the secretive investors in their territory, according to the Daily Beast.
Flannery Associates LLC has spent more than $800 million discreetly purchasing areas around Travis Air Force Base in Solano County over several years, for a project dubbed ‘California Forever’. (Pictured: an artistic depiction of the proposed city from the investors’ website)
Flannery says the proposed new city will be ‘walkable and green’, create thousands of jobs and ‘bring back the California Dream’. (Pictured: an artistic depiction of the proposed city from the investors’ website)
The California Forever project has been criticized by locals over potential impacts on the agricultural economy and air base security. (Pictured: Planes at Travis Air Force Base)
Adding to the tensions, Flannery Associates is suing a group of local landowners for allegedly conspiring to inflate the value of their properties by up to $170 million.
California Eastern District Court papers show that the billionaires are seeking $510 million in damages from the landowners – while landowners are arguing for the case to be dismissed.
Flannery is suing dozens of landowners, though it has settled with three of the defendants in the lawsuit – Barnes Family Ranch Associates, Lambie Ranch Associates and Kirby Hill Associates.
The billionaire investors confirmed to Bloomberg that they had paid $18,000 per acre to settle with the groups – the equivalent of three times the fair-market value.
Court filings also show that although local landowners were willing to sell their territories, they expressed concerns that Flannery was using ‘bullying tactics’ and ‘hyper aggressive behavior’ to push them out.
‘Their hyper aggressive behavior seems to indicate that we are in a very good position and it is best not to engage with them at this point,’ one landowner told another in an email chain submitted to the court by Flannery.
‘No one is suggesting that we don’t sell, the question is when and at what price.
‘Several of the other major land owners in the area are basically taking their time as well and not engaging with Flannery.’
But the group now has all the land it needs for its utopian city after its highly secretive operations persuading landowners to give up sites which some had owned for a century.
Flannery Associates has bought up land near Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, Northern California, raising concerns about potential security risks
Congressman John Garamendi is among the politicians who have raised concerns about the covert nature of the land purchases by Flannery Associates
local Mayor Catherine Moy said she knows nothing about Flannery Associates – and their poll to Fairfield city residents regarding proposals to build a new city came as a surprise to officials
It comes after Flannery sent a survey to residents in the 120,000-strong city of Fairfield to gauge support for the construction of a new city – which also offered the first glimpse into their plans for it.
One of the project’s financial backers, Michael Moritz, has also been harshly critical of San Francisco this year, suggesting the billionaires may have designs to build a new metropolis to replace the much-derided Golden City.
Moritz slammed SF as a city which ‘bans plastic straws but permits plastic needles’ in a February essay for the Financial Times.
‘Fentanyl, the synthetic drug that is 50 times more powerful than and a fraction of the cost of heroin, has turned many blocks of the city into zombie zones,’ he wrote.
In a separate essay for the New York Times in February, he wrote: ‘Even Superman equipped with a light saber would not be able to govern San Francisco.’
‘Like it or not, San Francisco has become a prize example of how we Democrats have become our own worst enemy,’ he added, noting that he himself is a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party.
Moritz characterized the city as disintegrating under the control of petty bureaucrats who deceive voters and perpetually re-write local rules in their quest to retain individual power.
‘The core of the issue, in San Francisco and other cities, is that government is more malleable at the city level than at higher levels of government,’ he wrote. ‘If the US Constitution requires decades and a chisel and hammer to change, San Francisco’s City Charter is like a live Google doc controlled by manipulative copy editors.’
Moritz, 68, last month exited as a partner at VC giant Sequoia Capital after 38 years, and will now focus on Sequoia Heritage, a $15 billion wealth management fund that he helped launch in 2010, according to Reuters.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk