Officials worry as mystery company buys land encircling Bay Area military base

By Katie DowdUpdated July 24, 2023 10:59 a.m.

An aerial view of Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif.

Google Street View

Since 2018, one company has been methodically buying up the available land around Travis Air Force Base. The transactions have caught the eye of the U.S. government — but no one can figure out who the mystery buyer actually is.

In early July, the Wall Street Journal reported that Flannery Associates has spent almost $1 billion acquiring land that surrounds the base. Despite being in touching distance to the edge of Fairfield's urban center, the base itself is still mostly surrounded by agricultural land. Public records show Flannery Associates is now the biggest landowner in Solano County, with 52,000 acres acquired, the Journal reported. Most of the land the company has bought is south of the base, covering swaths of the agricultural and marshy area down to the Sacramento River in Rio Vista.

"Nobody can figure out who they are," Rio Vista Mayor Ronald Kott told the Journal. "Whatever they’re doing — this looks like a very long-term play."

Unsurprisingly, this has caught the attention of the military. According to Congressman John Garamendi, who represents California's 8th District, government officials are unable to track down who makes up the Flannery group. Because the company is registered in Delaware, it does not need to disclose its business partners, a tactic commonly used by LLCs.

"Literally three sides of that base are totally controlled by the Flannery group," Garamendi told ABC7. He called it "reason to be concerned."

"Who are these people?" Garamendi added. "Where did they get the money where they could pay five to ten times the normal value that others would pay for this farmland?"

A 79th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10A Extender aircraft flies over a mountain range near Travis Air Force Base.

USAF/Getty Images

The Journal reported that Flannery Associates says 97% of its investors are American citizens and the remaining investors are in the U.K. and Ireland. The government and military investigation is ongoing into who bought the land and for what reason.

Construction began on Travis AFB during World War II, and it earned the moniker "Gateway to the Pacific" for its role as a major cargo and troop transport center on the West Coast. Today, it's the largest employer in Solano County with over 13,000 employees.

July 23, 2023|Updated July 24, 2023 10:59 a.m.

Katie Dowd is the SFGATE managing editor.