A mystery company, supported by prominent billionaires from Silicon Valley, has been quietly acquiring vast expanses of land within a northern Californian county, seemingly with the ambitious goal of constructing an entirely new city within the state. According to a recent article in The New York Times, these investors include some of the most notable figures from the tech hub, such as Marc Andreessen and Laurene Powell Jobs.
The company behind this intriguing endeavour, Flannery Associates, has reportedly invested a staggering $800 million to secure thousands of acres of farmland in Solano County, which lies to the northeast of San Francisco. Insider managed to obtain court documents shedding light on these acquisitions.
Flannery Associates’ Land Acquisitions and Backing by High-Profile Figures
The Wall Street Journal has also delved into this story, revealing that Flannery Associates has been steadily purchasing approximately 52,000 acres of agricultural land near Travis Air Force Base since 2018. Concerns have arisen among government officials as they initiate investigations into these purchases. There are suspicions that foreign interests might be covertly involved with Flannery, prompting these inquiries.
Catherine Moy, mayor of Fairfield, said, “So the entire base is encircled now.” He further added, “So there’s no part that isn’t touched by Flannery.”
Not much information is available regarding Flannery Associates and their precise urban development intentions. As reported by The Times, the firm is headed by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old ex-trader from Goldman Sachs.
The supporters of Flannery Associates encompass prominent individuals like Andreessen and Powell Jobs, along with Michael Moritz from Sequoia Capital, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and various other unnamed parties. The article doesn’t specify the individual investment amounts from each of them.
Flannery Associates’ Ambitious Project and Legal Dispute in Solano County
In 2017, Flannery Associates presented a concept to transform the land in Solano County into a walkable city powered by clean energy, aiming to accommodate a population of tens of thousands, according to a report by The Times. Present real estate data indicates that the median housing price in the county stands at $585,000.
A leaked email from The Times revealed Moritz’s statement that Flannery had acquired approximately 1,400 acres of land at a cost of less than $5,000 per acre. However, subsequent expenses escalated significantly, with Flannery reportedly spending up to $15,000 per acre, as stated in legal documents presented by Flannery Associates’ lawyers.
During May, Flannery’s legal representatives initiated a lawsuit against several landowners in Solano County, asserting a joint effort to inflate their land values artificially. The lawsuit contends that Flannery paid the landowners an excess of around $170,000,000 and is now seeking reparations totalling at minimum $510,000,000.
Silicon Valley aims to create Innovative Urban Development
In a motion submitted in July, the landowners responded to the lawsuit with a plea for its dismissal. They claimed they had either engaged in legitimate, arms-length transactions for land sales or were unmoved by Flannery’s offers due to a lack of interest (or capability) to sell.
Lawyers representing Flannery Associates and the landowners did not provide a response when contacted after regular working hours. For quite some time, Silicon Valley has aimed to construct an entire city anew, occasionally with a romantic concept of a “smart city.”
Back in 2016, Y Combinator, a startup accelerator situated in Silicon Valley, initiated efforts to explore the possibility of creating a city that could tackle California’s pressing issue of affordable housing.
The accelerator wrote, “We want to build cities for all humans — for tech and non-tech people. We’re not interested in building ‘crazy libertarian utopias for techies.'”
Several technology moguls, such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk, have harboured aspirations of creating their own urban settlements. Elon Musk, for instance, made headlines by acquiring a vast expanse of 3,500 acres near Austin, Texas, with the intention of establishing a township he has playfully dubbed “Snailbrook.” Insiders revealed his vision encompasses a Texan paradise along the picturesque Colorado River.