A Silicon Valley group backed by billionaires says it has acquired all the land it needs to build a utopian city in Northern California, after quietly purchasing more properties last month.
Flannery Associates, the company behind the California Forever project, acquired at least seven other parcels totaling about 814 acres in Solano County in October, according to county records. The company now owns more than 53,000 acres in the area — after some parcels were swapped — where it plans to create a green, walkable community that it says would generate thousands of jobs.
“As for future purchases, with the exception of a few remaining properties that Flannery has under contract that will close in the coming weeks, Flannery has assembled all the land it needs and does not plan to make any purchases additional,” the company said in a statement. statement.
The investor group is led by Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, and backed by tech moguls like former Sequoia Capital chairman Mike Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.
They spent more than $800 million acquiring land for the project, a highly secretive, multi-year purchasing operation that was first revealed in late August by media outlets. The project has since faced criticism from local officials and residents who fear the impact of their plans on the environment, the local agricultural economy and on the security of the nearby Travis Air Force Base.
Adding to the tensions, Flannery is suing a group of Solano landowners for allegedly colluding to inflate the value of their property by $170 million. Flannery is seeking at least $510 million in damages, triple the amount allegedly inflated by price-fixing. The landowners reject the request and seek to dismiss the complaint.
Some of the parcels Flannery purchased last month were owned by Barnes Family Ranch Associates, Lambie Ranch Associates and Kirby Hill Associates, three of the defendants named in the lawsuit the company filed in May in federal court in Sacramento.
Flannery confirmed Thursday that she paid $18,000 an acre to settle with Barnes, Lambie and Kirby, the equivalent of three times the fair market value.
The land sales came to light after recent court documents revealed the most comprehensive account yet of the landowners’ accusations against Flannery.
The defendants allege that Flannery used pressure tactics to convince farmers, some of whom have farmed in the area for more than a century, to sell their land against their will. They claim Flannery pitted family members against each other, evicted and terminated leases with farmers who refused to negotiate and used the cost of litigation to force land sales, according to the filings.
An attorney representing the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
The California Forever Project has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception. The mysterious purchases have long raised national security concerns, as part of the land surrounds the air base, a key U.S. military center. This prompted the locals the legislators call for a federal investigation and demand more transparency around the disclosure of farmland purchases.