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California Forever Faces Resistance From Federal Lawmakers and Local Leaders in Solano County

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An illustration of a downtown center with people sitting and walking around with various buildings, a food truck and structures on display.
A rendering of the downtown center in the new city California Forever is proposing to build in Solano County.  (Courtesy California Forever)

Two federal lawmakers on Thursday joined a growing chorus of local elected officials raising concerns about California Forever’s proposal to build a new city in Solano County.

And it comes as California Forever, a company with funding from noted tech billionaires, is seeking approval from voters for its plan to add shops, office and industrial space and enough homes for up to 400,000 new residents on what is now around 17,500 acres of farmland.

Democratic California Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson said the development could impede training exercises for Travis Air Force personnel, strain the local water supply, and raise public transit infrastructure costs.

“My concern has always been our national security and our food security and the fact that the people of Solano County have a role in what happens in their county,” Thompson said. “I think this company has put all those issues at risk and violated the trust of the public.”

The comments made to reporters came after several local elected officials have been critical of the project, including Suisun Mayor Pro Tem Princess Washington, Solano County Supervisor Mitch Mashburn, Will Brazelton of the Solano County Farm Bureau and Vallejo Councilmember Charles Palmares.

An illustration of an aerial view of a large residential area and city.
A rendering of California Forever’s proposed new city in Solano County. The company said it would include a mix of apartments and townhomes, along with shops, offices and industrial uses. (Courtesy California Forever)

In a statement following the formation of a new group opposed to the project called Solano Together, Mashburn decried California Forever’s ballot initiative as “shockingly light on real details.

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“Should the initiative qualify for a November ballot, our community will be asked to provide an up or down on the project,” he said. “We’d be asked to make this decision without basic facts needed to make an informed decision. That should make everyone concerned.”

But the company remains steadfast in its race to November’s ballot. Brian Brokaw, a spokesperson for the company, has great respect for elected officials but said, “They don’t get to make up their own ‘facts.’”

“The initiative spells out very clearly what the proposal is — and what it is not — and includes ten voter guarantees to ensure accountability,” he told KQED. “We are delighted with the feedback we are receiving from Solano voters since publishing the full plan this January and we know that the voters will make their own decisions based on the facts this November.”

But many local elected leaders remain skeptical as to why California Forever’s subsidiary company, Flannery Associates, began in 2017 buying tens of thousands of acres in the Montezuma Hills without revealing their identity or intentions until just last year.

Thompson and Garamendi have been vocal opponents of the project even before details emerged. Last July, before California Forever officially announced its plans, Garamendi, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel, asked the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment to investigate the land purchase. That inquiry prompted California Forever to go public with their plans in August.

An illustration of a neighborhood with trees and people sitting on benches and stairs of buildings.
A rendering of a residential street in the city California Forever is proposing to build in Solano County. (Courtesy California Forever)

Garamendi is particularly concerned about the Travis Air Force Base and how the development could interfere with operations there. In January, California Forever amended its ballot measure text to locate the town back farther away from the Air Force base, but Garamendi said light pollution from the proposed city could impact training for nighttime raids and sorties. The base also generates loud noises that Garamendi said could impact residents in the new city.

“Bottom line is this is no place for a 400,000 person city,” Garamendi said. “There is no way that Travis Air Force Base will be positively affected [by this development]. It’s all negative.”

On Wednesday, just a day before Garamendi and Thompson officially conveyed their concerns about the plan, California Forever announced in a blog post that it would move the town even farther away from the base than initially proposed and create a “Travis Security Zone” which would double the size of the current area around the base from 7,971 acres to 14,900 acres.

A map showing the proposed area for the new city within Solano County. (Courtesy California Forever)

The base abuts the northwestern part of the new development. California Forever’s amended ballot initiative, which was filed on Wednesday, includes an additional 4,200 acres zoned as “Travis Compatible Infrastructure,” where the only permitted uses are “infrastructure, agriculture, and habitat preservation.” The residential areas of the new city will also be moved farther away from the base, and the downtown area will be relocated one mile south to address light pollution.

“We’re committed to being a strong and productive partner to the base and its families for decades to come and to supporting the critical role it plays for both our national security and for Solano County,” the blog post reads. “Our swift action to modify our plans and the initiative is proof of that unwavering commitment.”

But the amended ballot initiative only spurred more questions from officials who worry California Forever’s vision isn’t as clear as it appears. Garamendi raised questions about what kind of infrastructure would be included in the 4,200-acre zone and said his concerns about who will pay for that infrastructure remain unaddressed.

“There are enormous issues of who is going to pay the cost of infrastructure,” Garamendi said. “Flannery [Associates] says they’ll pay their fair share. Guaranteed, the rest of Solano County will be picking up a huge tax bill here. My opposition to this [development] is even stronger today.”

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