We Finally Know Who Bought Up $1B Worth of Land Near Air Force Base: Report

Some parts of the mystery behind a massive California land purchase have been released, but questions remain about what is planned for almost $1 billion worth of real estate in Solano County northeast of San Francisco.

The purchases, which are near Travis Air Force Base, had aroused significant speculation about the buyers and their motives.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Flannery Associates, which had been buying the land until it became the county’s biggest landowner, is the name of a collection of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and other investors who envisage creating a new city on tens of thousands of acres.

“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,” Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for the group, 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.”

A Friday report in The New York Times indicated that Michael Moritz, a billionaire venture capitalist, had been recruiting investors to buy property “in a corner of the San Francisco Bay Area where land was cheap.”

The report lists Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn; Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, venture capitalists; Patrick and John Collison, who founded the payments company Stripe; Laurene Powell Jobs, who founded the Emerson Collective; and Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, entrepreneurs who are now turned investors.

The report said Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, has been leading the operational end of the project as it gobbled up land.

Catherine Moy, the mayor of the Solano County seat of Fairfield, told the Times the group came to her attention as it started buying land.

“They would come with an offer of four and five times over the market at the time,” Moy said. “They were deals that they couldn’t pass up.”

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California, who represents the region, said he had been frustrated for years in his efforts to learn who was behind the land purchases.

“I couldn’t find out anything,” he told the Times, noting that when the group opened up Friday to announce its purpose and arrange meetings, it was “their first effort, ever, to talk to any of the local representatives, myself included.”

Last week, according to the Times, residents in the area were sent surveys that talked about a possible ballot initiative about a project that “would include a new city with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open space.”

Moy remains skeptical, according to the Times, citing “poor infrastructure, including the two-lane highway bisecting the region that she said was already clogged by super-commuters driving to the edges of the Bay Area and beyond. The area is also prone to regular droughts and is at high risk for wildfires.”

“It seems very pie in the sky,” Moy told the Times.

Garamendi indicated he is not on board yet, according to KGO-TV.

“Flannery Associates has developed a very bad reputation in Solano County through their total secrecy and mistreatment of generational family farmers. Flannery Associates spent nearly $1 billion forcing families off the land and if they intend to build a megacity, they have a long way to go to establish trust in the community. The proposal of a megacity must answer legitimate community concerns about transportation, water, sanitation, and environmental impact,” he said in the statement.

“My primary concern has always been the operational security of Travis Air Force Base, which is a critical element in our national security. Having purchased land on three sides of the base, they must come forward with specific plans and assurances that their development proposals will in no way degrade the operation of or erode security at the base,” he said. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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