Silicon Valley Billionaires Purchase 52,000 Acres of California Farmland to Build a New City from Scratch
An anonymous reader shared this report from the New York:
In 2017, Michael Moritz, a billionaire venture capitalist, sent a note to a potential investor about what he described as an unusual opportunity: a chance to invest in the creation of a new California city. The site was in a corner of the San Francisco Bay Area where land was cheap. Moritz and others had dreams of transforming tens of thousands of acres into a bustling metropolis that, according to the pitch, could generate thousands of jobs and be as walkable as Paris or the West Village in New York.
He painted a kind of urban blank slate where everything from design to construction methods and new forms of governance could be rethought. And it would all be a short distance from San Francisco and Silicon Valley… Since then, a company called Flannery Associates has been buying large plots of land in a largely agricultural region 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. The company, which has little information public about its operations, has committed more than $800 million to secure thousands of acres of farmland, court documents show. One parcel after another, Flannery made offers to every landowner for miles, paying several times the market rate, whether the land had been listed for sale or not…
Brian Brokaw, a representative for the investor group, said in a statement that the group was made up of “Californians who believe that Solano County’s and California’s best days are ahead.” He said the group planned to start working with Solano County residents and elected officials, as well as with Travis Air Force Base, next week… The land that Flannery has been purchasing is not zoned for residential use, and even in his 2017 pitch, Moritz acknowledged that rezoning could “clearly be challenging” — a nod to California’s notoriously difficult and litigious development process. To pull off the project, the company will almost certainly have to use the state’s initiative system to get Solano County residents to vote on it. The hope is that voters will be enticed by promises of thousands of local jobs; increased tax revenue; and investments in infrastructure like parks, a performing arts center, shopping, dining and a trade school.
Moritz’s 2017 email had argued their project “should relieve some of the Silicon Valley pressures we all feel — rising home prices, homelessness, congestion etc.”
SFGate estimates the group now owns 52,000 acres — “an empire that is nearly double the size of the city of San Francisco” — and notes that some details emerged when the group filed a document to repond to a lawsuit. “It claims it told landowners that they could keep ‘existing income streams from wind energy and natural gas storage,’ could ‘continue using these properties rent-free for decades,’ and would receive ‘significant grants from Flannery for charitable giving, to be used at the [landowners’] discretion to support local schools and other non-profits.'”
“Tech billionaires reportedly backing mysterious Solano County land grab,” reads the headline on SFGate’s latest article:
SFGATE reported earlier this week that a survey had circulated to Solano County residents asking for their opinions on the potential development of “a new city with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over ten thousand acres of new parks and open space.”