A stealth campaign by Silicon Valley elites with a dream of turning a swath of California farmland into a new age city has ranchers who live here challenging their tactics as well as their motives.
A mysterious company backed by Silicon Valley investors has been purchasing land near San Francisco.Until recently, the development plans behind their $800 million investment have been unknown.They’re planning to build a retro city on the 52,000 acres of farmland they bought.
The Silicon Valley investors that got the government’s attention by gobbling up $800 million worth of land outside San Francisco say the mystery city they plan on building is, well… kinda retro.
“We think that there’s so much wisdom in how we built cities and towns over the last hundreds of thousands of years in some places. And so from the beginning, we’ve believed that you go back to go forward,” Jan Sramek, founder and CEO of California Forever, told KQED on Monday.
The New York Times reported in August that Sramek — a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader — and a group of some of tech’s most recognizable names, including Marc Andreessen, Laurene Powell Jobs, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman together funded a new company called Flannery Associates, which purchased about 52,000 acres of farmland around Travis Air Force Base in rural Solano County, north east of the Bay Area.
“The plans that people put forward will be very inspired by those great old American neighborhoods that someone who was born 100 years ago will recognize,” Sramek told KQED. “And so I think we are very different than many of the attempts to build new cities by people who’ve been wooed by the vision of some star architects to build the city of tomorrow. We want to build a city of yesterday.”
Sramek said the “dominant” housing types in the new city should be row houses, which he called one of the “most underappreciated types of types of buildings.”
“You can have small construction firms build them. They can be built much more cheaply. They can be single-family row houses where you have a yard,” he said.
Critics, including Fairfield mayor Catherine Moy, say developing on some of the limited remaining agricultural land in California is “not a good idea,” she told KQED.
“Here’s my suggestion: these billionaires take their billions of dollars and go back down to Silicon Valley and build high-rise apartments there that are low income so that their employees can work and live in the same area,” Insider previously reported Moy said.
A different style of smart city for Solano
Earlier this year, Musk purchased 3,500 acres of land outside of Austin, Texas, to build a town he intends to call “Snailbrook” for his company employees to live in.
Those who live near existing Boring Company and SpaceX developments in Bastrop Country, including Chap Ambrose, a computer programmer, have doubts about the sustainability and vision of such ever-expanding projects.
“I just have no faith that the leadership there values the environment and these shared resources,” Ambrose told The Washington Post, adding that he wants Musk to “do better here and be a good neighbor.”
California Forever did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by Insider.
Azmi Haroun contributed to this report.