The ideal city that Silicon Valley billionaires want to build in California

A rural area in Solano County, California (AP Photo/ Godofredo A. Vásquez)

A group of businessmen promises livable neighborhoods and thousands of job opportunities, but the project is not convincing

In recent years, the gradual acquisition of a string of lands in Northern California by a little-known company has become something of a mystery to locals, but in the past few weeks things have become clearer. the The New York Times a statement Behind this huge investment there is a group of billionaires and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley who are thinking of building an ideal city for us, with thousands of new jobs, buildings powered by solar energy and a “new society” that will attract more and more people. The project is described in general terms on the website californiaforever.comhas been online for a few days, and has already sparked many controversies.

On the site, you can see some pictures of virtual scenes of life in the new city, as the site indicates the edge has been made Almost certainly With artificial intelligence: houses along the river at sunset with fishermen on the beach, people sitting at tables in a tree-filled square, and even children on bicycles, solar panels and wind turbines. Not even a car around. The website also states that California Forever is the holding company that controls Flannery Associates, the company that according to Reconstruction The New York Times In the last five years he would have spent in total 900 million dollars (More than 800 million euros) to purchase about 140 properties in the eastern part of Solano County, located between San Francisco and Sacramento: the poorest area in California.

Flannery Associates was founded in 2017 by former Goldman Sachs executive Jan Sramek, 36, who recently bought a home in Solano County. Over time, Sramek roped in billionaire investor Michael Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reed Hoffman, and Patrick and John Collison, founders of online payments company Stripe, to the idea of ​​buying land to build a new city. Other investors also include Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, entrepreneur Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, and entrepreneurs Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross.

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In recent years, without attracting much attention, the company has purchased agricultural land with a total area of ​​more than 200 square kilometres, more than the size of the city of Milan. The group claims that it does not aim to interfere in the activities of farmers and ranchers in the area, but rather wants to build “tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar power plant, and orchards with more than a million new trees.” And more than 40 square kilometers of parks and free spaces.” The website does not provide details about the possible dimensions of the city, does not indicate how many residents it could accommodate, and makes only vague references to construction times and methods. It stresses that this is only “the beginning of a decade-long collaboration.” “With residents, district administration and all stakeholders in the area.

The area around San Francisco is one of the most expensive in the United States, finding an affordable place to live is so complicated that it has created a housing emergency that has lasted for many years and is among the most expensive in the world. Growing demand and housing shortages have led more and more people — even wealthy ones with jobs in the finance and technology sectors — to move to other states, such as Texas or Idaho, or live on the streets, if necessary. .One of the poorest people. It is one of the most remarkable paradoxes of California, which despite its wealth, its progressive political history and as a state symbol of innovation and opportunity, is today one of its most exclusive and unequal. This is also why other entrepreneurs have already suggested in the past Solution Alternatives Equally ambitious, including building new cities from scratch.

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Flannery conducted his operations largely clandestinely for years. At a certain point, the local authorities began to doubt it, so how He said the San Francisco ChronicleTo conclude the negotiations, the company paid three, four, or five times the appraised value of the land, and became the company that owned the largest number of properties in the entire county. California Forever’s name and the names of its investors were discovered thanks to an investigation by federal authorities after Flannery purchased parcels of land near Travis Army Base, which is located near Fairfield, also in the county. California Forever later revealed itself through the new website.

Although the process has made some families in the county very wealthy, he says San Francisco Chroniclea new virtual city with tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of residents raises various controversies, and in any case, it is not clear whether everything is possible under local laws.

For example, County Administrator Bill Emlen noted that local regulations place restrictions on the use of different types of land and mean that major residential developments must occur in existing cities. Speaking to ABC7 newsInstead, Fairfield Mayor Catherine May singled out the project unrealisticThis is also because the governorate’s area is known for its drought, it does not have large reservoirs, it is exposed to the danger of fires, and the roads are dangerous and inadequate. “There is some water, but it will not be enough for tens of thousands of homes,” May said. According to state Rep. Mike Thompson, the company “He doesn’t have a planRather, it is a vision and an idea. To say that the road will be long, very long, is perhaps an understatement.”

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In order for the project to go ahead, the company will certainly have to convince the local residents and the proposal must be approved by their vote, as specified in The New York Times. That’s also why the company recently distributed some surveys among residents in which it claims, among other things, that the project will retain young people who intend to leave the county, offering in return “the opportunity for a new community” with functional homes, livable neighborhoods and plenty of open space.

“In the end, it doesn’t even matter whether these cities were built or not.” He said Elisabetta Ferrari, Professor of Sociology at the University of Glasgow, is an expert in digital media. What matters to these entrepreneurs, according to Ferrari, is that they talk about it: “to show the public that they are not only rich, but also people with a vision and entrepreneurs who want to do something for people.”

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