The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

Tech billionaires reshape Solano County

The Bay Area reacts to California Forever
Tech+billionaires+reshape+Solano+County

After five years of secrecy and speculation, an organization created by tech billionaires called California Forever has publicly launched a plan to build a brand new city in Solano County. The organization stated that the idea behind the project is to create a community full of economic opportunities, which will preserve environmental stability and benefit current residents. 

However, legal challenges with zoning restrictions, pushback from residents and farmers and environmental concerns have generated major pushback against the project.  

California Forever has bought around 55,000 acres of arid, dry patches of grass around Solano County in the last five years, which altogether is estimated to be worth around $800 million.

According to California Forever’s website, 81% of Solano County parents expressed that their kids would not be able to afford living in the county when they grow up, and only 21% of residents believe the county is generally headed in the right direction. In response, California Forever plans to build a new walkable community with well-paying jobs, renewable power and an abundance of nature and agriculture. 

However, many residents and lawmakers think this is not such a simple task. The farmland that California Forever acquired for the city is zoned for agriculture, making the building of residential and commercial areas illegal.

Along with the practical and legal concerns with the project, many Californians have spoken out about their concerns with the projected city’s construction destroying the fragile environment of Solano County and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

“I think building a new city with 75,000 people in that part of the country would destroy one of California’s most important assets [for its population] … It is beautiful, important and endangered,” wrote Carl Nolte, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle in an article breaking down California Forever’s land use.

California Forever has claimed the ability to use the Delta as a source of water. However, it is already the primary source of freshwater for two-thirds of the state’s population, and would not be sufficient to sustain an entire new city predicted to be double the size of San Francisco. 

“I think if this is created successfully and they get past all of the physical challenges of land use, agriculture and community, the hardest thing would be to keep it integrated into society,” said Micaela Winthrop ‘25. 

According to ABC10 News, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of California Forever Jan Sramek has been meeting with both federal and state lawmakers about their plans in order to counter speculation and concern about the acquisition of land. The California Forever website includes a frequently asked questions section where they respond to their lack of public communication. Still, questions about the company’s mystique have affected its perception as a whole.

Urban’s Human Resources Administrator Kimberly Rojas Rodriguez spoke about her anxieties about the project as a resident of Solano County. “Vallejo has generally been an inexpensive place to live, but not anymore, so I do want more housing,” said Rojas Rodriguez. “But [the secrecy] does make you question that there may be something else.” 

In addition to California Forever’s confidentiality when it comes to the company’s motives, residents of Solano County received a survey called Solano Speaks on the company’s website. California Forever released its key findings from resident responses in July and August 2023 to promote information about the city project and highlight positive feedback from residents in the area. 

Rojas Rodriguez, who received the survey through a text message at the end of last month, assumed that the company got her information through COVID-19 tracking or voting registration.  

“[The survey] included leading questions, like ‘Wouldn’t you want this green space … [or] this wonderful community?’ It makes me question why they are posing it this way,” said Rojas Rodriguez.

California Forever’s construction in Solano County will heavily impact daily life for its residents if the project comes to fruition. With mostly negative coverage about land usage and motives behind the company, the project has started off on bad footing for the people of Solano County.

Nonetheless, Housing Rights Group Co-Leader Ellis Monty ‘24 spoke about how change in the area may be difficult but necessary. “Our main concern should not be disrupting the small-town lifestyle of people in Solano County when there are people who are currently homeless and enduring trauma every single day because of the housing shortage.” 

 

About the Contributor
Sophie Mainelli, Managing Editor, Print