California Plan to Build New City Qualifies for November Ballot

California Plan to Build New City Qualifies for November Ballot

A voter prepares their ballot at a polling station in a file photo. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts

6/13/2024

Updated: 6/18/2024

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A ballot initiative backed by billionaires to build a new eco-friendly community on about 17,500 acres in northern California has gained enough support to be listed on the county’s Nov. 5 election ballot.
Tim Flanagan, chief information officer and registrar of voters in Solano County, said on June 11 that the initiative had garnered a sufficient number of signatures from voters within Solano County—14,832—to make it onto the ballot.
Dubbed the “East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative,” the measure asks voters to approve the rezoning of agricultural land to designations that would allow for the development of a “dynamic new community” spanning about 17,500 acres in the county, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area.
California Forever says the project not only will result in the creation of “middle-class homes in safe, walkable neighborhoods” but also lead to 15,000 well-paying jobs in renewable energy, manufacturing, construction, and other industries.
Along with new housing, the area will consist of shopping streets, schools, parks, sports facilities, community gardens, bike paths, and the largest solar farm in California, combined with a regional battery storage facility, according to its backers.
The solar farm is expected to have a capacity of 2 gigawatts, which backers say is enough to power 1.5 million homes in Solano County and across the broader region.
A minimum of 13,062 valid signatures from voters registered in the county is needed for the request to qualify for the ballot. The Solano County Registrar of Voters began reviewing the signatures submitted by California Forever, the company backing the project, in April.

Backers Pledge Millions in Investments

Additionally, the plan to build the area includes $500 million in community benefits and a $200 million commitment to invest in “revitalizing” downtowns in existing Solano cities, according to the group California Forever, which is backing the East Solano plan.
California Forever welcomed the news in a post on the social media platform X, thanking the “over 20,000 Solano County voters who signed to put the East Solano Plan on the November ballot.”
“Let’s say YES to homes we can afford, jobs in our backyard, and clean energy that can provide opportunity to all in Solano County,” the group said.
California Forever was founded in 2017 by CEO Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader and entrepreneur, and is backed by billionaires including Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz; and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
According to its official website, the East Solano plan aims to create a “new economic engine” for Solano County while increasing revenue across education and public safety and reducing homelessness.
Last month, the billionaire developers behind the plan announced that multiple companies representing industries, including manufacturing, farming, aerospace, biotech, and media, have agreed to be included in the development and bring jobs to future residents.
A property in Solano County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2023. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

A property in Solano County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2023. (Helen Billings/The Epoch Times)

Project Promises ‘In No Way Guaranteed’

On its website, California Forever states that the East Solano Plan is the result of “extensive community engagement process with Solano County residents, including hundreds of meetings 1-on-1 and in small group meetings, large town halls, mail and phone surveys, and thousands of conversations at the door.”
However, not everyone has welcomed the plan; some local leaders as well as environmental groups have raised concerns about how the new city will affect agricultural land in the area.
Among them is Rep. Mike Thompson, a Democrat who represents California’s Fourth District, which includes parts of Yolo and Solano counties, who published an op-ed against the project in the Daily Republic, a local newspaper in Fairfield in April.
In that op-ed, the lawmaker said he believes the promises made by California Forever regarding the initiative—that it would lead to urban investment, increased jobs, money, and infrastructure—are “unenforceable and in no way guaranteed.”
Mr. Thompson also pointed to the “dramatic increase in costs this project will have on taxpayers,” whom he said will “be required to foot the bill for the significant increase in public services rewind for a project of this size.”
“I strongly support efforts to increase the number of good-paying jobs, implement clean energy, and provide opportunity for our region,” he wrote. “But these efforts require sound public policy that works with our community, not lavish promises that may never be realized.”
Other lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), have raised concerns over the plans and claimed that some of the families who sold the land to the company behind the project didn’t want to sell but were persuaded to do so with large sums of money.
A spokesperson for California Forever didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
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Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.

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