A Silicon Valley group backed by billionaires said it’s acquired all the land it needs to build a utopian city in northern California, after quietly buying more properties in the past month.
Flannery Associates, the company behind the California Forever project, acquired at least seven more land parcels totaling about 814 acres in Solano County in October, according to county records. The company now owns more than 53,000 acres in the area — after some parcels traded hands — where it plans to create a walkable, green community they say would generate thousands of jobs.
“With regards to future purchases, except for a few remaining properties that Flannery has under contract and will close on in the coming weeks, Flannery has assembled all the land it needs and does not anticipate making any additional purchases,” the company said in a statement.
The investor group is led by Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, and backed by tech moguls like former Sequoia Capital Chairman Mike Moritz, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.
They’ve spent more than $800 million scooping up land for the project, a buying spree done extremely discreetly over several years which was first revealed in late August by the media. The project has since faced criticism from local officials and residents who fear the impact of their plans on the environment, local agricultural economy and for the security of the nearby Travis Air Force Base.
Adding to the tensions, Flannery is suing a group of Solano landowners for allegedly colluding to inflate the values of their property by $170 million. Flannery is seeking at least $510 million in damages, or triple the amount allegedly inflated by price fixing. The landowners deny the claim and are seeking to dismiss the suit.
Some of the parcels that Flannery bought in the last month were owned by Barnes Family Ranch Associates, Lambie Ranch Associates and Kirby Hill Associates, three of the defendants named in the lawsuit that the company filed in May in Sacramento federal court.
Flannery confirmed on Thursday that it had paid $18,000 per acre to settle with Barnes, Lambie and Kirby, the equivalent of three times the fair-market value.
The land sales came to light after recent court filings revealed the most complete account to date of the landowners’ accusations against Flannery.
The defendants allege that Flannery used pressure tactics to convince farmers, some of whom have farmed in the region for more than a century, to sell their land against their will. They claim that Flannery pitted family members against each other, evicted and terminated leases with farmers who declined to negotiate and used the cost of litigation to force land sales, according to filings.
A lawyer representing the defendants could not be immediately reached for comment.
The California Forever project has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception. The mysterious purchases had long raised national security concerns, as part of the land surrounds the air force base, a key US military hub. That prompted local lawmakers to call for a federal investigation an to urge for more transparency around the disclosure of agricultural-land purchases.
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