You don’t have to stray too far into science fiction or comic book tales to find examples of megalomaniacal tech businessmen creating their own “utopian” metropolises, before—inevitably—everything goes to hell. Now several titans of Silicon Valley are hoping they can get their way with their own dream city that, according to new renderings, would look something like tech billionaires’ favorite Mediterranean vacation spot. It comes complete with stucco buildings, red-tiled roofs, a comfortable downtown, and enough solar panels to make it seem like it’s actually sustainable.
“California Forever,” the parent company of Flannery Associates, shared artistic renderings for plans to turn a section of Solano County in northern California, currently home to around 450,000 people, into a hip, walkable utopia where the kids play and bike in the streets, the adults kayak in the afternoon, and everybody sips kitschy margaritas under the awnings of a quaint downtown.
How would this suburban, family-centric ideal be supported? Solar farms, apparently. The project said eastern Solano has enough existing infrastructure to build a “large solar farm.” There’s no word yet on where they’ll stick the solar farm, but the company did say it would need to improve existing infrastructure like the North Bay Aqueduct and Highway 12.
Flannery Associates said it has purchased more than 50,000 acres in eastern Solano County since 2018. Previous reports showed the company spent more than $800 million buying up parcels of farmland in the Bay Area from Fairfield all the way to Rio Vista, though up until now there had been little to no communication from the company about why, and what the hell they planned to build. It’s all being fronted by former Goldman Sachs investor Jan Sramek. According to California Forever, the Czech Republic native Sramek spent some time fishing in Solano County and recently bought a home there.
The project has major tech financiers behind it, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and tech VC kingmaker Marc Andreesen. There’s also Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, and many other big Silicon Valley names pumping money into the big land grab.
The project has described supporting tens of thousands of residents, though they would all be packed into San Francisco-style, two-story townhouses facing public parkland. There’s no word of how many acres the dream city would take up, or exactly who would get the chance to live there, but California Forever promised that neighboring farms would continue to use the land for farming, but the project-owned lands would be used for housing, solar farms, open space and “both agriculture and habitat conservation.”
All that, and it needs to still give Travis Air Force Base the room it needs. There had been some concern for years that people with connections to foreign governments were buying land near the critical base. The project still needs to get local politicians and residents on its side. Locals need to approve a ballot initiative to allow for urban uses on land zoned for agriculture.
As Quartz reported Friday, local politicians who have met with Sramek said he simply does not have much of a plan for making any of this housing affordable. The company sent a push poll to residents asking if they would support the project if locals were given priority.
“This idea of building a new community and economic opportunity in eastern Solano seemed impossible on the surface, but after spending a lot of time learning about Solano and its people, Jan became convinced that with a thoughtful design, the right long-term patient investors, and strong partnerships with all stakeholders, there would be an opportunity to build a remarkable place for Solano residents, both current and the many generations to come,” the project site reads.
Northern California has already suffered from obscene housing costs. The ultra-wealthy in the area have gone to great lengths to oppose any affordable housing initiatives that could upset their home values, and now the same wealthy tech financiers are giddy to support a major housing development without any concrete plans to give local residents the option to access these tens of thousands of brand new homes.