A mysterious company, Flannery Associates, has piqued the curiosity of Solano County residents and government agencies by acquiring thousands of acres for what it claims is a new city project, with investments now unmasked as coming from a consortium of Silicon Valley influencers.
For the past five years, Flannery Associates has spent over $800 million on 140 properties in Solano County, but the origin of this substantial capital was shrouded in secrecy until recently.
Revelations from The New York Times now connect Flannery’s investors to big names like Laurene Powell Jobs, the owner of The Atlantic and widow of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs. Additionally, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, notable for backing companies like Skype and Lyft, and other prominent Silicon Valley figures have joined the funding ranks. The identity of these investors was confirmed by a reliable source with insights into the project.
The visionary behind this ambitious endeavor is Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, who aspires to construct a new city between Fairfield and Rio Vista. This vision is evident in surveys sent to Solano County residents and a 2017 pitch reviewed by The New York Times.
This venture has amassed one of the largest real estate portfolios in the Bay Area, bolstered by investments from some of the world’s most astute investors. However, navigating the intricate and politically charged landscape of land-use politics in California presents substantial challenges. Anticipated resistance from anti-growth activists, environmentalists, local politicians, and voters could prolong the realization of this city or even jeopardize it entirely.
Key investors include venture capitalist Michael Moritz, an ex-partner at Sequoia Capital, who is also the primary financial supporter of the San Francisco Standard news website. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, and independent investors Daniel Gross and Nat Friedman are among the other contributors, with Friedman also co-founding California YIMBY, a pro-housing advocacy group. Andreessen Horowitz’s general partners Chris Dixon and Marc Andreessen are both individually backing the venture in addition to their firm.
Previously, Flannery’s lawyer had stated that the company was backed by a group seeking to diversify their portfolio with real assets, including agricultural land, with the majority of the capital originating from U.S. investors.
Flannery Associates emphasizes its commitment to Solano County’s future and envisions a project that fosters job opportunities, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment. This promising endeavor is poised to engage with residents, elected officials, and Travis Air Force Base to turn these ideas into reality.
Representatives John Garamendi and Mike Thompson, representing the region where the land has been purchased, have raised concerns about this project. They have received classified briefings from federal agencies regarding these land purchases and are in the process of arranging meetings with Flannery Associates representatives to address their concerns.
In response to potential security issues surrounding Travis Air Force Base, Garamendi emphasizes the critical nature of the base’s operations and the need to protect it. Additionally, both lawmakers are concerned about the impact on family farmers and the local community.
While Flannery Associates aims to place plans for the city on next year’s ballot, the challenges ahead, including past voter sentiments favoring growth within existing city borders, make the outcome uncertain.
Some see this as an exciting endeavor led by business leaders to address the housing shortage in the region, while others question the involvement of private entities in urban development. Regardless, it’s clear that Flannery Associates faces a complex journey in bringing their vision to fruition in Solano County.