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We now know who made the $800M land buy near Air Force base in California

Aug 29, 2023


The identities of the parties responsible for the significant land acquisition near Travis Air Force Base in California have now been unveiled. A consortium of tech billionaires is behind the purchase of approximately 55,000 acres encircling the airbase, with a vision to establish an innovative utopian city situated about 65 miles northeast of San Francisco.

The ambitious project, the land for which was bought at around $800 million, aims to create a modern urban environment with vast parks, sustainable public transportation and tens of thousands of homes that utilize renewable energy solutions. Proposed plans for the city also outline the establishment of a solar energy farm and an ambitious afforestation initiative, which involves planting over a million new trees.

“This project 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 ten thousand acres of new parks and open space,” the buyers have said through releases distributed to residents living in the nearby existing communities.

Spearheading this endeavor is Flannery Associates, backed by a team of ultra-wealthy investors. This project has garnered support from influential figures in Silicon Valley, including Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs.

“We are proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County,” said Brian Brokaw, a spokesperson for Flannery Associates. “We are excited to start working with residents and elected officials” and that it would begin meetings early next week.”

Flannery Associates has quietly amassed land in the area over the past half-decade, largely flying under the radar until concerns were raised by federal lawmakers regarding the sizable land acquisition adjacent to a military installation.

Government agencies such as the FBI and the Department of the Treasury were called upon to scrutinize the motives behind the purchase as some legislators speculated that Flannery Associates might have connections to a recent surge in Chinese investments in American agricultural lands. According to the Department of Agriculture, Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland has grown twentyfold over the last 10 years.

“The fact they chose to buy all three sides of the Travis Air Force Base even raises immediate questions about national security,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., earlier this year. “So, is this Chinese money? We don’t know, but we do know that the Chinese money was being used in North Dakota and we have a very deep suspicion, given the amount of money, given the lack of attention to values, that they simply want to acquire all of this land.”

While this latest revelation regarding the true identity of the land’s buyers has assuaged some concerns that the purchase was a front for espionage activities by a foreign adversary, the undertaking of building a utopian city has not been without its share of controversy.

Flannery Associates has initiated legal action against a group of California landowners, alleging that they artificially inflated prices on the properties the company procured. The legal battle seeks over $510 million in damages, though some previous landowners contend that they were not willing sellers in the first place.

“[Flannery Associates] would come with an offer of four and five times over the market at the time,” Catherine Moy, the mayor of nearby Fairfield, California, said. “They were deals that [landowners] couldn’t pass up.”

“They were making offers on agricultural land way above market rate and they were offering very generous lease terms to the sellers,” said Ronald Kott, mayor of Rio Vista, California, another city within a close proximity to the potential development.

The vision for the proposed city still requires approval from local and state authorities, as well as the consensus of Solano County residents. Flannery Associates is initiating dialogue with government representatives and has also engaged in polling residents to gauge their receptiveness to the concept. According to these polls, a potential plan to advance with the utopian city could be solidified through a county ballot measure as early as next year.

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