Silicon Valley Tech Titans Are Building an Experimental City In Northern California LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is among the billionaires who paid $1 billion for land near an Air Force base.
For years, the identities of investors in large land purchases in Solano County, California have been shrouded in secrecy.
Some government officials and residents believed the investment company, known as Flannery Associates, might even be a foreign entity planning nefarious activities or an amusement park, and asked the government to investigate.
But the mystery was solved over the weekend when Flannery revealed that it was, in fact, backed by a number of high-profile Silicon Valley executives, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz; and venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, and Lauren Powell Jobs, daughter of Steve Jobs, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Their grand plan is to turn the mostly agricultural area into an affordable and sustainable new city, according to Flannery representative Brian Brokaw.
"We are proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County," Brokaw said in a statement. "We are excited to start working with residents and elected officials, as well as with Travis Air Force Base, on making that happen."
Building a new city from scratch
According to a report in The New York Times, Flannery has spent nearly $800 million over the past five years on land in Solano, which is 60 miles northeast of San Francisco and home to the Travis Air Force Base.
They have methodically purchased large pieces of property from landowners, sometimes way above market value.
The project is being quietly led by Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader with deep connections in the tech world. His vision is to take the arid rural land and transform it into a bustling urban community with tens of thousands of homes with clean energy.
Some pushback from the community
Not everyone has been excited by Flannery's activity in the area. The Air Force had been investigating the company for months, and state representatives had also called for the National Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to investigate. A meeting has been called for next week.
Meanwhile, there have been some contentious legal dealings in the area. In May, Flannery sued landowners in the area, accusing them of colluding to drive up real-estate prices. The case has left a sour taste in many's mouths.
"Flannery Associates has developed a very bad reputation in Solano County through their total secrecy and mistreatment of generational family farmers," state representative John Garamendi Garamendi said in a statement.