Billionaires Buying Large Swaths of Land Near Travis Air Force Base Unveil Plans for New City

Flannery Associates LLC has spent nearly $1 billion purchasing more than 50,000 acres of land surrounding Travis Air Force Base.
Billionaires Buying Large Swaths of Land Near Travis Air Force Base Unveil Plans for New City
In this handout from the U.S. Air Force, personnel with the 60th Air Mobility Wing prepare to leave Travis Air Force Base on an emergency rescue mission to the Pacific coast of Russia in Fairfield, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2005. (David W. Cushman/U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts
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The mysterious company that has been buying up large swaths of land near Travis Air Force Base in Solano County in Northern California has unveiled a new website detailing plans to build a new metropolitan city.

The Delaware-registered firm, Flannery Associates, has spent nearly $1 billion purchasing more than 50,000 acres of land surrounding Travis Air Force Base since 2018, public records show.

California Forever is the parent company of Flannery Associates, according to its new website.

It was founded in 2017 by CEO Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, and is backed by billionaires including Marc Andreessen and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

“Over the last few years, Flannery has purchased over 50,000 acres in Solano County. To date, our company has been quiet about our activities. This has, understandably, created interest, concern, and speculation,” the website reads. “Now that we’re no longer limited by confidentiality, we are eager to begin a conversation about the future of Solano County a conversation with all of you.”

The website goes on to state that Solano County, like much of California, “faces many challenges, but also possesses countless opportunities.”

Over the past few years, California Forever has completed surveys and interviews with about 2,000 residents of Solano County—located between Sacramento, San Francisco, and Napa Valley, with a population of about 450,000 people—and their voices “were clear,” according to the company.

“Residents want more opportunities to buy homes in safe, walkable communities. Good paying local jobs, so they can both live and work in the county,” the website reads. “Better funding to improve schools, promote public safety, and reduce homelessness, as well as resources to invest in infrastructure for transportation, water, and wildfire protection.”

That’s why, according to California Forever, it has raised capital from a string of investors, including Mr. Andreessen and California investment firm Andreessen Horowitz and Ms. Jobs, as well as Patrick and John Collison, Chris Dixon, John Doerr, Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross, Reid Hoffman, and Michael Moritz, to build the new community.

Laurene Powell Jobs (R), the widow of Steve Jobs, with Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, prior to the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in Washington on Jan. 24, 2012. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Laurene Powell Jobs (R), the widow of Steve Jobs, with Warren Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, prior to the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in Washington on Jan. 24, 2012. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

‘Walkable Neighborhoods,’ Solar Farms

Those investors share the firm’s “long-term vision and belief that California’s best days are still ahead” and are “committed to Solano and this project for the long term.”

The community will include homes, shopping, dining, and schools, all within “walkable neighborhoods,” as well as solar farms and “open space,” including both “agriculture and habitat conservation,” according to the website.

It'll also attract new employers, create well-paying local jobs, lead in “environment stewardship,” and fuel a “growing tax base to serve the county at large.”

Finally, the project would “protect and support” Travis Air Force Base, including by respecting Solano County’s official Travis Reserve Area, according to the company.

The website comes as lawmakers have raised concerns over Flannery Associates.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), whose district includes Solano County, said he met with two representatives from the company in late August to ask questions about their plans but that it was clear following the meeting that they “don’t have a plan; they have a vision.”

“The secrecy under which they operated caused consternation and concern from residents, local elected officials, and federal agencies, and while they explained their rationale, I do not believe the secrecy was necessary,” the lawmaker said in a statement.

“Solano County is a tight-knit community, and it is going to be a long road for Flannery to restore trust and move forward with their proposed vision. As one of the representatives of Solano County, I want to make sure that a group of Silicon Valley billionaires do not steal family farmers’ ability to farm their land.”

Farmers Sued

Flannery Associates filed a $510 million lawsuit in May against the farmers who sold it billions of dollars worth of land.

The lawsuit accuses the farmers, including Barnes Family Ranch Associates and Kirby Hill Associates, of conspiring to inflate the price of real estate by hundreds of millions of dollars and overcharging the company, allegedly in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

Litigation in the case remains ongoing.

Mr. Thompson, following his Aug. 29 meeting, cited additional concerns such as national security and food security, noting that a “development of the magnitude they are proposed could harm Travis Air Force Base in the long term.”

“They need to make sure that nothing they do harms Travis, puts our national security at risk, or disadvantages family farmers,” he said.

Other lawmakers, including Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), have raised concerns over the plans, claiming that some of the families who sold the land to the company didn’t want to sell to Flannery, but were persuaded with large sums of money.

Many of the families can’t afford legal representation in the ongoing lawsuit, according to Mr. Garamendi.

Despite those concerns, California Forever insists that the new project is the start of a “decades-long collaboration with Solano’s residents, elected officials and agencies, as well as the many Solano stakeholders, including Travis Air Force Base, labor, business, agriculture, educators, police, fire, conservation, and many others.”

“This is a project that must be not just designed with, but also approved by, all Solano residents,” the website reads.

Masooma Haq contributed to this report.
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