A group of tycoons has big plans for one California county.
Known as California Forever, the band of tech billionaires that stealthily accumulated land in the grasslands bordering San Francisco Bay shed light on its plans to construct a new city on Wednesday. The group will also begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative in Solano County that would pave the way for the metropolis to be built, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The community will host tens of thousands of new homes, says the proposal, as well as parks, bike lanes, open space, and a solar farm. The group also aims to make the city walkable and fueled by clean energy, and it hopes the endeavor will create at least 15,000 jobs, and offer $500 million to assist with down payment for housing, scholarships, and other benefits for residents, in addition to $200 million to revitalize the downtown core of existing Solano County communities like Rio Vista.
To achieve its goal, California Forever members will have to persuade Solano County voters to approve of the idea. And that’s just the first hurdle: Permissions from federal, state, and local officials are also required before changes to the land can be made.
Creating a city of your own is no easy feat, naturally. But it could prove especially challenging for the group, which includes LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and John and Patrick Collison, who founded payment-processing company Stripe. The project itself was shrouded in mystery for years, during which time an LLC named Flannery Associates bought thousands of acres of Solano County farmland and pasture, purchases that totaled over $800 million. The LLC initially declined to disclosed backers or explain why they were spending millions on acreage, according to the L.A. Times, though the tech titans behind the project were eventually revealed.
The first stage of the group’s public campaign kicked off this week when Jan Sramek, founder of California Forever and a former Goldman Sachs trader, pledged that the new city would be a “great neighbor” to everyone in the county at a meeting in the Veterans Hall in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta town of Rio Vista, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Theoretically, the metropolis would sprout on 18,000 acres just west of Rio Vista with a potential population of “several hundred thousand people.” The area reportedly houses about 10,000 people on the Sacramento River, but the new city would be separated from the town by 712 acres of parkland, sports facilities, and open space. Sramek says the project would amass “tens of billions of dollars” of investments upon completion.
The project’s detractors are not convinced of its success. “We don’t think we need housing on agricultural land,” Joe Feller, former chair of the Solano County chapter of the Sierra Club, which has come out against the idea, says. State Senator Bill Dodd, who represents the area, is “not sold” on the community, according to the L.A. Times.
The city’s realization is a long way off, though, experts say. Considering the approvals necessary and any other potential issues, the earliest construction could begin is 2026—so long as all fares well.