A U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy practices runway approaches as cars drive on Branscombe Road in the farmland around Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield on Aug. 23. An investment group has purchased tens of thousands of acres of land near the base in hopes of developing a new city.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

UPDATE: The mysterious company buying thousands of acres in Solano County told a lawmaker that it plans to build at least one city and up to three in the farming-heavy county.

The saga surrounding a group of mysterious investors who have spent more than $800 million to buy up thousands of acres of farmland in rural Solano County has gripped Bay Area residents, local politicians and federal government agencies. Last week, the Chronicle reported that the investors were revealed to be a group of Silicon Valley notables who seem to be gearing up to build a new city.

Here is what is known about the effort, according to Chronicle reporting:

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What and where is the project being envisioned?

The company behind the land purchases, Flannery Associates, has bought a portfolio of farmland consisting of at least 230 parcels and 40,000 acres in Solano County over the past five years. The properties are currently zoned for agriculture in unincorporated parts of the county.

According to a poll sent to Solano County residents last week, the "new city," which is an area nearly the size of two San Franciscos, would be developed between Fairfield and Rio Vista in southeast Solano County. A poll sent to area residents suggested it might include tens of thousands of homes and a large solar energy farm. In a meeting with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, two Flannery representatives said it plans to build at least one city and up to three. Their goal is to build walkable, environmentally friendly, relatively affordable housing to address the housing shortage in the Bay Area, they told him.

The land includes parcels partially surrounding Travis Air Force Base, which officials say handles more cargo and passengers than any other military air terminal in the United States. About 400 buildings and 1,300 military family housing units are on the 6,455-acre base.

A map by the San Francisco Chronicle’s data team shows that Flannery Associates LLC has been listed as the owner of at least 230 properties in Solano County, according to property records obtained in July 2023. Click on a parcel to see the exact address and the assessed value of each parcel:

Property owned by "Flannery Associates LLC"

"Flannery Associates LLC" was listed as the owner of 230 properties in Solano County, according to property records obtained in July 2023
Use ⌘ + scroll to zoom the map
Map: Emma StiefelSource: Property data from Regrid


The following map shows where these properties sit in relation to Travis Air Force Base and Highway 12:

Who is behind the effort?

Flannery Associates’ creator is Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader. Sramek outlined his ideas for converting the area of farmland between Fairfield and Rio Vista into a vibrant community with public transportation, clean energy and a mass of new residents in a 2017 pitch, which was circulated to a coterie of other Silicon Valley power players.

Other investors were recently revealed to be Michael Moritz, a billionaire venture capitalist and backer of the San Francisco Standard news website; LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman; Atlantic owner Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park; Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison; and investors Daniel Gross and Nat Friedman, who is the co-founder of California YIMBY, a pro-housing advocacy group.

What has happened so far?

Flannery has been buying parcels of land from local farmers, often for three to five times appraised value. But officials and locals say the transactions have been divisive in the community, with one rancher referring to it as a "hostile takeover."

The company has accused the ranchers of colluding to force prices even higher. In May, Flannery sued a group of ranchers in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, accusing them of an "illegal price-fixing conspiracy" that caused it to spend $170 million in "overpayment for properties." The lawsuit seeks $510 million in damages.

What has been the reaction from Travis Air Force Base?

Four years ago, commanders at Travis began raising concerns about the growing cluster of land being purchased by "an unknown entity," according to U.S. Rep. John Garamendi. Any activity near the base could disrupt military operations and movements there, he said, which currently include C-17s and C-5s being loaded with munitions for Ukraine.

Solano County already has zoning requirements that restrict wind and solar farms within miles of the base, so radar won’t be disrupted.

What has been the reaction from locals and elected officials?

Garamendi and Thompson, who represent the area where the land was purchased, have been vocal about their opposition to Flannery’s plans. Both congressional Democrats said they have received classified briefings from the FBI and the Treasury Department on the land purchases.

"They don’t have a plan, they have a vision, an idea," Thompson told the Chronicle after meeting with Flannery representatives. "To say that this is going to be a long, long road is probably an understatement."

Thompson and Garamendi said that in addition to military security concerns, they worry for the future of family farmers who have increasingly been displaced or even sued through what Garamendi called the group’s "strong-arm mobster tactics" to purchase the land.

Local officials said Flannery until recently made no effort to communicate with them, choosing instead to advertise their plans for the new "city" — which Flannery hopes to get on next year’s ballot — to Solano County residents.

But the plan also has supporters, including Matt Regan, senior vice president of public policy for the Bay Area Council, who applauded it as a large-scale private effort to tackle the region’s housing shortage.

Where does the process stand now?

The project will require support from local and federal lawmakers to get off the ground, as well as voter initiatives. Flannery advertised to Solano County residents that it hopes to get the plans for the city on next year’s ballot.

Flannery Associates plans to meet with state legislators and then local supervisors and mayors, they told Thompson. The group also plans to hold town halls for the community and to open three offices in the area, he said.

When could this city actually be created? What major hurdles would it face?

The project is by no means a sure bet. If it gets built, it could take decades. For comparison, the greater Bay Area’s newest city, Mountain House in San Joaquin County, took 20 years to build — and with 21,000 residents, it is one-tenth the size of the development envisioned in Solano County.

Although the real estate portfolio assembled by Flannery is one of the biggest in the Bay Area and is backed by some of the world’s savviest investors, land-use politics in California are notoriously fraught. It could meet stiff resistance from anti-growth activists, environmentalists and local politicians and voters.

Solano County residents have consistently voted to allow development in cities including Dixon, Vallejo, Fairfield and Rio Vista — but not in rural, unincorporated areas. That policy, laid out in the voter-approved Orderly Growth Initiative, seeks to protect conservation and agriculture uses. Current laws also prohibit creating new cities on land "within the sphere of influence" of existing communities.

And a myriad of questions surround the project, including where its water will come from, how developers would address the area’s risk for flooding and extreme heat due to climate change, the impacts to the state’s agriculture distribution chain, and transportation concerns in an area currently serviced by a two-lane highway.

Reach Annie Vainshtein: avainshtein@sfchronicle.com

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Written By
Annie Vainshtein

Annie is a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle. She previously was a digital producer for The Chronicle’s Datebook section. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2017 with a degree in journalism. During her time there, she spearheaded a culture column, produced radio pieces for NPR-affiliate station KCBX, and was a DJ and writer for KCPR, the campus radio station. Before joining the Chronicle, she was an associate producer at SFGATE and interned at VICE and Flood Magazine. She’s particularly interested in communities and scenes that are often misunderstood.

Written By
Emma Stiefel

Emma Stiefel joined The Chronicle as a developer in 2021, first as a Hearst Developer Fellow. She became a Newsroom Developer in 2022. She is a journalist, developer and data scientist who leverages technology to help explain complex issues.

Before joining The Chronicle, Stiefel worked as a technical contractor for Metrics for News, where she helped develop data visualizations for the organization’s analytics platform. She was also editor-in-chief of the Minerva Quest, her college news publication. She majored in data science and history at Minerva Schools at KGI with a focus on digital humanities.

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