The Solano County chapter of the Sierra Club held a press conference Tuesday to express their opposition to a proposed plan, revealed in August, to build a new city east of Fairfield — a project that currently has the name California Forever.
It's still very early days for the billionaire-funded California Forever project, which has spent the last several years accumulating farmland in Solano County at a steady clip. The group appears to be aiming to put something on the ballot next fall to get county voters to allow them to rezone the land, and there will likely be a protracted war of words between them and various groups, government entities, and others before then.
The latest is the Sierra Club, the national environmental organization, which held a press conference in Fairfield Tuesday, as ABC 7 and others reported.
Princess Washington, who is mayor pro-tem of Suisun City, is also the chair of the Solano County chapter of the Sierra Club, and she excoriated the moves by California Forever's Flannery Associates as "a hostile takeover" of county land.
"Over the past 30 years, the Bay Area has lost more than 217,000 acres of [agricultural] land to development," Washington said, per ABC 7. "This is land we cannot get back once it's developed."
Flannery Associates has acquired some 52,000 acres of land which is mostly contiguous, to the tune of around $900 million — and farmers have suggested that some of the landowners were strong-armed into selling with the threat of costly litigation. (Flannery has, in fact, filed suit against some of the sellers, claiming they illegally inflated the price of the land they sold.)
The backers are Silicon Valley billionaires, including venture capitalists Michael Moritz and Marc Andreessen, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Laurene Powell Jobs, among others.
The intent, they say, is to build tens of thousands of new homes and create a sustainable, walkable city.
Washington had more harsh words for the project, as KPIX reports, saying, "This is a new form of neocolonialism, the sheer audacity of what money can buy."
And KPIX spoke to one of the attendees of the press conference, seventh-generation Rio Vista resident Aiden Mayhood. (Rio Vista lies just east of the proposed new city, at the eastern edge of Solano County, along the Sacramento River Delta.)
"I live in Rio Vista and we're only a town of 10,000 people," Mayhood tells the station. "We have 700 acres of [empty] land [that's] residentially zoned. There's nothing happening there. Go to places like that."
The backers of California Forever, and its visionary Jan Sramek, seem to want to create a city out of whole cloth for their own reasons. Washington tells KPIX that it's a means to skirt local development controls. "The reality is it's easier to have a blank slate than to color within the lines and that's why this happened," Washington says.
Sramek tells ABC7 that everyone at the press event was jumping to conclusions too early. "I mean I think they should wait for the overall plans before anyone is making up an opinion about the project, which is what most of the elected officials in the area are doing," Sramek says.
California Forever is opening some sort of public-relations office in Vacaville next week, so that residents can come in and ask questions. The group is also planning to host town-hall meetings in Vacaville, Fairfield, and Rio Vista next week.