A near future in which tech billionaires control every aspect of our society isn’t too difficult to imagine, and, in that sense, the city of the future may be coming to northeast San Francisco.
Reporting by The New York Times revealed that a cohort of investment bankers and venture capitalists have spent $800 million on a swath of land zoned for agricultural use in the hopes of turning it into some kind of city.
What is going on with this city?
Led by a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader named Jan Sramek, the group, known as Flannery Associates, has collectively shelled out nearly a billion dollars and features some impressive names, including venture capitalist Michael Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, Steve Jobs’ ex-wife Laurene Powell Jobs, investor and software developer Marc Andreessen, and entrepreneurs Daniel Gross and Nat Friedman.
As of August, Flannery Associates had purchased 140 properties spanning more than 50,000 acres of farmland. Most of the land is commercial wind farms, energy infrastructure, and conservation projects.
While the names of the people behind the purchases are now known, their plans are somewhat more opaque. A statement from a Flannery Associates spokesperson said, “We are proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County.”
Why are these ultra-wealthy people doing this?
So far, none of the people behind the project have offered any justification for why they feel they need to own a city.
However, a recently released survey did hint at some of their potential plans. The survey described “tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open space” and claimed that “in the first 10 years alone the project is expected to generate thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in tax revenue.”
The members of the Flannery Group are not the first ultra-wealthy people to build their own city. Other projects, such as billionaire Marc Lore’s Telosa and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s NEOM, have also been announced as “utopian” cities of the future. Neither project has been completed.
What are people saying?
Lisa Shipley, manager of the Solano County Farm Bureau, described the land-buying process the group has used as “secretive” and “aggressive.” “I’ve never seen anything like the expense they’ve paid, but then again, I don’t know a lot about the whole incorporating of a new city,” she said. “My question would be, ‘Why would you not bring the community surrounding you in on it?’”
“I think it’s disappointing there’s been no transparency,” Rio Vista City Council member Edwin Okamura told The San Francisco Standard. “That’s part of the angst of them coming into the region — no one knows who they are.”
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