'California Forever' founder Jan Sramek unveils first renderings for utopian city near San Francisco and boasts it will feature better schools, safer streets, and less homelessness
- 'Flannery Associates' rebranded as 'California Forever' as it unveiled the plans
- Group led by Jan Sramek spent $800M buying 50,000 acres in Solano County
- First artistic renderings of their planned utopian city were released Thursday
Updated: 13:20 EDT, 1 September 2023
The tech billionaires behind a project to build a utopian new city in California's Bay Area have released the first artistic renderings of their ambitious plans.
Previously known only as 'Flannery Associates,' the group rebranded as 'California Forever' and released the plans in a publicity blitz on Thursday night, following months of silence and speculation.
Led by former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek, the group's backers include Silicon Valley heavyweights such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Andreessen Horowitz investor Marc Andreessen, and Steve Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs.
California Forever is now the largest landowner in Solano County, which is about 60 miles northeast of San Francisco, after snapping up more than 50,000 acres of farmland for more than $800 million.
The group's voracious acquisition of land surrounding Travis Air Force Base had sparked national security concerns and a federal investigation, until their true identity and intent was revealed earlier this week.
On their newly published website, California Forever offered the first renderings of its plans to turn the arid, hilly farming region into an ideal planned community.
The drawings show Mediterranean-style homes clustered on hillsides and shorelines, with wind farms dotting the background.
Streetscapes are dominated by pedestrians and cyclists, with outdoor cafes filling the town square and no cars to be seen.
In one drawing, kayakers paddle in a nature preserve, while another shows workers installing a solar energy panel.
In a statement, the group acknowledge that its silence as it mysteriously snapped up land had 'understandably, created interest, concern, and speculation.'
'Now that we're no longer limited by confidentiality, we are eager to begin a conversation about the future of Solano County,' the group added, saying the area 'faces many challenges - but also presents countless opportunities.'
'Residents want more opportunities to buy homes in safe, walkable communities. Good paying local jobs, so they can both live and work in the county,' said California Forever.
'Better funding to improve schools, promote public safety, and reduce homelessness, as well as resources to invest in infrastructure for transportation, water, and wildfire protection,' the site added.
A survey previously circulated by the group suggested the plan included 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 scale of the project, encompassing more than 50,000 acres, is truly massive.
By way of comparison, San Francisco itself is only 30,000 acres, while New York's Manhattan borough is a puny 14,500 acres.
The Villages, the huge master-planned retirement community in Florida, covers about 51,200 acres, or more than 80 square miles.
Jan Sramek, the leader of California Forever, is a 36-year-old financial prodigy who made a name and fortune by his early 20s as an emerging markets trader in Goldman Sachs' London office.
As a high school student York, Sramek broke the British record for A-level tests by scoring 10 As in a diverse set of subjects, and went on to graduate from the London School of Economics.
In 2009, when he was just 22, Sramek was the youngest-ever financier to be named to the annual Financial News list of 100 'Rising Stars'.
He was a handball champion on the Czech national team, and co-authored a book about the secret of his success, writing that if given the chance to offer his younger self advice, he would quote Ayn Rand: 'The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.'
But days after his 24th birthday, Sramek mysteriously quit Goldman Sachs and dropped out of the limelight.
Since then, Sramek relocated to the Bay Area, and appears to have been quietly working on his plan for California Forever since 2017.
US Rep. Mike Thompson told the Daily Beast that he met with Sramek earlier this week, and relayed that the investment guru said he'd chosen Solano County based on studies that determined the area was a prime target for Bay Area expansion.
Sramek said he grew up in a walkable, blue-collar town in the Czech Republic and that it had always been his dream to recreate that in the US, according to Thompson.
'After moving to California a decade ago, Jan spent time in Solano County during fishing trips on the California Delta and fell in love with the area.
'He became committed to a vision for the future of Solano County,' the site added.
Sramek and his pregnant wife Naytri recently purchased their first home in Solano, where the live with their toddler daughter and golden retriever named Bruce, the group says.
California Forever's other financial backers include billionaire venture capitalist Michael Moritz, who has recently been vocal in his criticism of San Francisco's failures in governance and public safety.
In a February essay for the Financial Times, Moritz slammed San Francisco as a city that 'bans plastic straws but permits plastic needles'
'Fentanyl, the synthetic drug that is 50 times more powerful than and a fraction of the cost of heroin, has turned many blocks of the city into zombie zones,' he wrote.
Mortiz lamented the city's failing schools, rising crime, deserted downtown, and exorbitant housing costs, placing the blame on the city's fractured governing structure, with a mayor and board of supervisors vying for power.
In a separate essay for the New York Times in February, he wrote: 'Even Superman equipped with a light saber would not be able to govern San Francisco.'
'Like it or not, San Francisco has become a prize example of how we Democrats have become our own worst enemy,' he added, noting that he himself is a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party.
Moritz characterized the city as disintegrating under the control of petty bureaucrats who deceive voters and perpetually re-write local rules in their quest to retain individual power.
'The core of the issue, in San Francisco and other cities, is that government is more malleable at the city level than at higher levels of government,' he wrote. 'If the US Constitution requires decades and a chisel and hammer to change, San Francisco's City Charter is like a live Google doc controlled by manipulative copy editors.'
In a 2017 letter to investors in the Solano County project obtained by the NYT, Moritz said 'this effort should relieve some of the Silicon Valley pressures we all feel — rising home prices, homelessness, congestion etc.'
Moritz, 68, last month exited as a partner at VC giant Sequoia Capital after 38 years, and will now focus on Sequoia Heritage, a separate $15 billion wealth management fund that he helped launch in 2010, according to Reuters.
The backers of the California Forever include Marc Andreessen, Patrick and John Collison, Chris Dixon, John Doerr, Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross, Reid Hoffman, Michael Moritz, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the group says.
Califorina Forever says approximately 97 percent of its capital comes from U.S. investors, with the remaining 3 percent comes from Patrick and John Collison, and other UK and Irish investors.