Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
When advocates for minority tenants in San Francisco rallied outside City Hall in May 2018 against legislation to allow aggressive development across the state, they were met with surprising resistance: dozens of young, mostly white counter-protesters, drowning them out with cries of “Read the bill!” The confrontation became so heated that a 77-year-old protester fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. One of the counter-protesters was escorted out of the crowd by sheriff’s deputies; another later issued a seven-paragraph apology on Twitter.
Many of the counter-protesters that day were members of California YIMBY—a group that advocates for rapid housing development in the Bay Area. The group had the backing of multimillionaires and billionaires, several of whom were revealed last week to be the same tech titans behind a secretive plan to build a new city in rural Solano County, just 60 miles outside San Francisco.
The coalition that quietly bought up 55,000 acres of land in Solano County—keeping their intent a mystery until last week—includes some of the biggest names in the tech sector and California political advocacy, including venture capitalists Marc Andresseen and Michael Moritz, Stripe co-founders John and Patrick Collison, and venture capitalist and California YIMBY co-founder Nat Friedman. After years of working on issues in San Francisco—and broadcasting their complaints about it on Twitter and in op-eds—the members seem to have decided it is time to start over.