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California Forever Hands Out $500K to Solano Nonprofits Ahead of November Election

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Two people walk past a sign that says 'California Forever.'
A California Forever office in the Solano Town Center mall in Fairfield on April 2, 2024. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

As California Forever continues its campaign to build a new city in Solano County, the billionaire-backed company announced on Tuesday that it had paid $500,000 in grants to 45 nonprofits working within the county.

The awardees include Dixon Family Services, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Journey Downtown Theater and the Boys & Girls Empowerment Group in Vallejo. A representative from California Forever said the money has already been distributed, though they did not disclose how much each organization received.

Before announcing the grant program in December, company representatives “listened to what the community wanted and needed,” said Michael Fortney, who was part of California Forever’s citizens advisory committee last year and later became the company’s director of partnerships.

“And the team heard over and over, ‘We need nonprofit money,’” he said. “And a lot of people came back and said, ‘We don’t want [the money] to be tied to the ballot initiative. You need to prove to us that you’re willing to come in and be a good partner and a good stakeholder in the community.’”

Although the grants announced Tuesday are only the first round of community funding, according to California Forever, all future money is tied to the November ballot initiative that would clear the way for the new city. That includes $500 million in what the company is calling “community benefits commitments” that would go toward housing, education, parks and family farms, and $200 million that would go toward investing in and renovating homes, offices and shops in downtown Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville and Vallejo.

This initial round of funding comes with no strings attached, Fortney said, and some of the organizations have not publicly expressed their support for the ballot initiative yet. Others offered their thanks to the company.

“There are so few direct services available for unhoused transitional-aged youth in Vallejo,” said Adjoa McDonald, the founder of the youth services organization Vallejo Project. “[California Forever]’s resources will ensure that a handful of the many vulnerable youth in our community have the skills and mentors needed to establish gainful employment.”

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Last week, California Forever announced a partnership with 12 companies that promised to open factories, farms and offices in the new town if approved. Representatives also announced plans to build one of the largest solar farms in the state, using local labor to construct and operate it.

While many of the companies are based in California, some are start-ups, and some skeptics of the plan wonder whether those companies will still be able to fulfill their promise after a decade, when the town will potentially be built and ready to move in.

In the coming weeks, company representatives have said California Forever will announce another round of employer partnerships and more details about its promises of increased recreation and entertainment opportunities.


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