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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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California Forever’s plan to build city from scratch qualifies for November ballot

California Forever intends to build a walkable, green city that can house up to 400,000 people on farmland between Travis Air Force Base and Rio Vista in Solano County.

(CN) — Election officials in Northern California announced Tuesday afternoon that a campaign to construct a new city from the ground up in Solano County gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The Solano County Registrar of Voters spent a month reviewing over 20,000 signatures submitted by California Forever, the Silicon Valley-backed initiative that envisions building an ambitious, walkable, environmentally friendly city that can house up to 400,000 people in eastern Solano County.

In order to make it on the ballot, the measure needed 14,369 signatures from registered Solano County voters. On Tuesday, the Registrar of Voters certified the signatures.

The measure will now head to the Solano County Board of Supervisors, which will vote at the end of June to either immediately adopt the initiative, place it on the ballot in November, or request a report assessing the impacts the project would have on Solano County.

Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader who heads up California Forever, proposed the idea for the city.

Voters will be asked to allow urban development on 27 square miles of land between Travis Air Force Base and the city of Rio Vista — areas that are currently zoned for agriculture. The land-use change is necessary to build the homes, jobs and the walkable downtown proposed by Sramek.

The project is backed by investors such as Marc Andreeson, a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, the cofounder and former CEO of Apple.

California Forever has made numerous promises for its ambitious plan Solano County, including the creation of 15,000 new jobs that will pay at least $88,000 annually, and an initial $400 million to help residents buy homes in the community.

Most recently, the company announced a $140,000 grant program to fund technical courses in IT support and data analytics, aiming to prepare residents for the jobs expected to be available once the initiative is approved. Additionally, it revealed plans to construct a regional sports complex featuring facilities for baseball, softball, football, basketball, soccer and other sports if the ballot initiative passes.

The money for the technical training grant program — along with $500,000 that the company has already doled out to local nonprofits — would be handed out before the initiative comes before voters.

Still, the ambitious project has faced opposition from agricultural groups and some local and federal officials who say the plan is too speculative and short on concrete details, as no plan to date includes any details for the water, roads and schools that California Forever's residents will need. Additionally, Sramek outraged locals when he covertly purchased more than $800 million in farmland in Solano County and sued those who refused to sell. 

Last week, the Solano Land Trust, a conservation group, asked voters to vote against California Forever’s November ballot measure.

“After careful consideration, we reached the informed conclusion that a development of this magnitude will have a detrimental impact on Solano County’s water resources, air quality, traffic, farmland and natural environment,” Nicole Braddock, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. “The plan runs counter to Solano Land Trust’s mission of preserving land and water for current and future generations in Solano County.”

Sramek expects to have 50,000 residents in the new city within the next decade, according to comments he made to Business Insider last month.

California Forever’s media offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Categories / Business, Environment, Government

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