Despite Pushback, Plans for New Green City Advance

California Forever campaign says it has enough signatures to get initiative on November ballot
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2024 10:45 AM CDT
Campaign for New Green City Says It's Got the Signatures
Suisun City Mayor Pro Tem Princess Washington is seen in Suisun City on Tuesday. She's part of a coalition called California Together that opposes the new Solano County city proposed by California Forever.   (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

A wealthy Silicon Valley-backed campaign to build a green city for up to 400,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area has submitted what it says are more than 20,000 of the 13,000 needed signatures to qualify for the November ballot. If verified by Solano County's elections office, the AP reports that voters will decide in the fall whether to allow urban development on land currently zoned for agriculture. Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader who heads the company behind the campaign, California Forever, said at a news conference Tuesday that he heard from thousands of people who want careers and homes in the county where they grew up but can no longer afford because of high housing costs and a lack of nearby work.

The yet-unnamed development would mix homes, green space, a walkable downtown, and jobs between Travis Air Force Base and the Sacramento River Delta city of Rio Vista. Sramek said he expects to start with 50,000 residents within the next decade, with homes starting at $400,000. The controversial project has wealthy backers, including philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. It also faces strong opposition by some elected officials and other critics who say Sramek's plan is a speculative money grab that's light on details. Sramek outraged locals by quietly purchasing more than $800 million in farmland since 2018 and even suing farmers who refused to sell.

Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson, who oppose the project, were initially alarmed that foreign adversaries or investors might be buying up the land because of its proximity to the Air Force base. "What people are really upset about are the tactics being used to obtain the goal at the end. The promise of jobs and affordable housing, that's not a guarantee," said Princess Washington, mayor pro tem of Suisun City. Sramek unveiled plans for the development in January but had to amend the land-use change ballot initiative twice to address county and Air Force concerns. The delays haven't slowed the project's timeline. California is desperate for more housing, but critics of the project say it would be more environmentally sound to build within existing cities than to convert designated farmland.

(More Jan Sramek stories.)

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