A stealth campaign led by Silicon Valley elites has ignited a heated controversy in California. Their audacious dream of transforming vast stretches of farmland into a cutting-edge city has not only raised questions about their methods but has also triggered a backlash from local ranchers. The project, known as California Forever, first caught the public’s attention when numerous parcels of land in this rural region between San Francisco and Sacramento were rapidly purchased by a secretive organization called Flannery Associates. The brainchild of former Goldman Sachs prodigy Jan Sramek, Flannery Associates has garnered support from influential figures such as Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn, Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, and renowned tech investor Marc Andreessen. However, the ranchers and residents of Solano County are now challenging the tactics and motives of Silicon Valley’s elite.
The covert land acquisition process initiated by Flannery Associates began approximately five years ago, unbeknownst to the local community. Residents have recounted receiving unsolicited offers to purchase their properties, with some experiencing persistent and unwelcome contact. An affected landowner, Cassandra Dana, revealed that she received her first offer in 2018 and has since been relentlessly pursued by the organization. Neighbors in this closely-knit community divulged a wide range of underhanded tactics employed by Flannery Associates. Solano County property owner John Sweeney exposed the disingenuous nature of their approach, recounting how they presented themselves as a group interested in preserving agricultural land. Sweeney stated, “They pulled all sorts of different tricks… It was pretty underhanded in general.”
According to the recently launched website of Flannery Associates, the California Forever project aims to create a city that integrates the agriculture and green energy industries with a sustainable vision for the future. Situated in the heart of Sacramento, the California Delta, San Francisco, and Napa Valley, the envisioned city would encompass not only residential areas but also solar farms, open spaces, agricultural land, and habitat conservation. The project’s proposal emphasizes its capacity to support the middle-class community, as well as the nearby Travis Air Force Base, a critical transport hub for global supplies. However, the path forward for this ambitious tech-age utopia will undoubtedly be fraught with obstacles.
Flannery Associates has embarked on a legal battle, filing a lawsuit worth half a billion dollars against certain landowners, whom they accuse of conspiring to inflate property prices. John Sweeney dismissed the allegations, explaining that it was a logical choice for landowners to wait for higher offers. Nonetheless, the lawsuit serves as evidence that the contentious struggle surrounding the California Forever project is far from over. Flannery Associates, however, declined an interview for this story, leaving many questions unanswered.
The reveal of Flannery Associates’ plans has prompted a flurry of concerns within the community and attracted political opposition. Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy expressed her city’s newfound awareness of the campaign to acquire agricultural land nearby. She voiced her concerns about the potential threat to Travis Air Force Base, which has been harmoniously coexisting with the current land use. Moy has even written to California Governor Gavin Newsom to express her apprehension. Governor Newsom himself expressed surprise at the California Forever project following its exposure by the media, announcing his intention to meet with a representative from the organization. The lack of concrete plans, such as a reliable water supply, further fuels skepticism surrounding the project’s feasibility and vision.
The mounting opposition to the California Forever project extends beyond legal battles and political reservations. It manifests in the heartfelt pleas of ranchers like Cassandra Dana, who tend to their livestock on these vast stretches of open land that they fear will be spoiled. The proposed city threatens to destroy not only the natural beauty but also the way of life in this rural area. Dana passionately states, “It’s just open land and it’s beautiful.” The sentiment is echoed by other residents who view the project as an encroachment on their landscape and a threat to their livelihoods.
The California Forever project, spearheaded by Flannery Associates and backed by prominent Silicon Valley elites, has sparked a fierce and multifaceted battle. Ranchers and landowners in Solano County find themselves at odds with a powerful and enigmatic group seeking to reshape the landscape into a tech-forward, sustainable city. The project’s methods of land acquisition, secrecy, and lack of concrete plans have fueled skepticism and opposition from residents and political figures alike. The fight over the California Forever project highlights the delicate balance between progress and preservation, and the struggle to protect the rural way of life in the face of relentless modernization.