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Creating a Metropolis From the Ground Up: The Ambitious Ambitions of Silicon Valley’s Elite

In 2017, billionaire venture capitalist Michael Moritz presented an unusual opportunity to potential investors: the chance to invest in the creation of a new California city. The proposed site was a cheap corner of the San Francisco Bay Area where Moritz and others envisioned transforming tens of thousands of acres into a bustling metropolis. The pitch claimed that this new city could generate thousands of jobs and have a walkable design similar to Paris or the West Village in New York.

The concept involved rethinking everything from urban design to construction methods and forms of governance. The location would be conveniently close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Flannery Associates, a company that has been quietly buying large plots of land in a mostly agricultural region northeast of San Francisco, has committed over $800 million to secure thousands of acres of farmland. Flannery has been making offers to every landowner in the area, often paying several times the market rate. The company’s purchases have raised speculation and concerns among locals, as well as the nearby Air Force base and members of Congress.

Flannery is the brainchild of Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, who has managed to attract some of the biggest names in the tech industry as investors. The list of investors includes Michael Moritz, Reid Hoffman, Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, the Collison siblings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Nat Friedman, and Daniel Gross. Flannery’s investors are all prominent figures in Silicon Valley.

Flannery’s ambitious vision expands on the original 2017 pitch, aiming to transform an arid patch of land into a community with tens of thousands of residents, utilizing clean energy, public transportation, and dense urban life. The company plans to work closely with Solano County residents, elected officials, and Travis Air Force Base to make this vision a reality.

The land purchased by Flannery is currently not zoned for residential use, and the process of rezoning it presents a challenge. To proceed with the project, the company will likely need to utilize the state’s initiative system, allowing Solano County residents to vote on the proposal. Flannery hopes to entice voters with promises of local job creation, increased tax revenue, and investments in infrastructure.

Flannery’s land purchases caught the attention of local landowners when the company bought large amounts of land at prices significantly above the market rate. The mystery surrounding the buyer and its intentions sparked curiosity and speculation among the community. Landowners became multi-millionaires overnight, yet they remained unaware of Flannery’s plans for the extensive amount of land acquired.

However, Flannery’s intentions became clearer recently when residents started receiving texts and emails conducting a poll to gauge opinion. The questions asked residents to rate the favorability of various names, including “Flannery Associates,” as well as describing a possible ballot initiative for a project that would involve the creation of a new city, new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards, and an extensive park and open space.

Despite the potential financial gains and promises of development, some local officials have expressed concerns about the project. Issues such as poor infrastructure, including a congested two-lane highway, regular droughts, and a high risk of wildfires, pose challenges to the feasibility and sustainability of creating a new city in the proposed location.

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