A wealthy investor-backed group with plans to build a new city in Solano County has revealed a $400 million down payment assistance fund it hopes will attract residents to the proposed community that could one day be home to up to 400,000 people.
The new details come as California Forever, a company funded by a consortium of tech billionaires vying to build what some have dubbed a “utopia” between San Francisco and Sacramento, lobbies for public support of its plan. On Wednesday, the group formally filed a ballot initiative with the county so it can begin to collect signatures to put the proposal before voters.
The company said it needs around 13,500 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. Solano County’s Orderly Growth Initiative requires voter approval to rezone the area for housing development.
“Solano County is an amazing place with amazing people and communities,” Jan Sramek, CEO of California Forever, said in a statement. “After listening to more than 12,000 Solano residents in small group discussions, one-on-one conversations, at our town halls, and through individual surveys, we’ve learned a great deal from new friends and neighbors.”
Since word got out that billionaires had bought up swaths of farmland in southeastern Solano County to build a new city, the venture has drawn the ire of residents and environmental groups, who have raised concerns about the loss of arable land, the potential impacts on infrastructure and the secrecy with which the land was gobbled up.
In all, the company has acquired about 50,000 acres in southeastern Solano County. But in plans announced on Wednesday, California Forever said it will build the community on just 18,600 acres—which it notes is a smaller footprint than the cities of Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville. The group said the community has the potential to grow to a city of 400,000—rivaling the population of the city of Oakland.
The proposed development would include neighborhoods with housing, schools, parks, grocery stores and other shops all within walking distance. New renderings also describe a transit hub and a warehouse district that could include both nightlife and small-scale manufacturing businesses, according to organizers, who likened the district to San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood.
Preliminary illustrations depict the city with a grid layout, a rapid transit bus network and car-free streets for pedestrians and bikes.
In the proposed ballot measure, California Forever says it will tie expansion of the community to job creation, promising voters that the new city would lead to the creation of 15,000 jobs paying above 125% of Solano County’s average wage by the time 50,000 residents move in. If the company fails to meet this goal, further development would stop, according to a news release announcing the plans.
The median household income in Solano County is $97,037, according to a 2022 U.S. Census estimate. A spokesperson for California Forever told The Standard that new residents employed remotely in other cities would add to their tally of jobs created.
The company said it will offer $400 million in down payment assistance to residents who buy into its planned community, as well as $200 million to “revitalize Solano downtowns,” $70 million in scholarship and small business grants, and a $30 million fund for parks and green spaces.
The company has also proposed expanding the security zone around Travis Air Force Base from about 7,971 acres to nearly 15,000 acres.
The project is funded by Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and Michael Moritz, formerly of Sequoia Capital. Moritz is the chairman of The Standard.