upper waypoint

California Forever's Bid to Build a New City Qualifies for November Ballot

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A billboard among tall weeds reads, "15,000 local jobs paying $88,000 or more." Paid for by California Forever.
A California Forever billboard stands along I-80 in Vacaville on April 2, 2024. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The campaign to build a city from scratch in Solano County submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot, election officials said Tuesday.

The Solano County Registrar of Voters spent a month reviewing over 20,000 signatures turned in by California Forever, the billionaire-backed company behind the ballot initiative. The measure needed 14,369 signatures from registered Solano County voters to qualify. On Tuesday, the Registrar of Voters certified the signatures.

The measure now heads to the Solano County Board of Supervisors, which will vote at the end of June on whether to immediately adopt the initiative, place it on the November ballot or first request a report assessing the impacts the project would have on the county.

Supervisor Mitch Mashburn has already announced his intention to request the report and said the board “will do everything we can to provide the facts needed to make an informed decision.” That report will be published 30 days after it is requested — likely appearing before the board in late July.


“We’re feeling great. We’ve had an incredibly exciting six weeks now that we submitted the signatures; we’ve had the opportunity to start delivering on all of [our] initiatives,” California Forever CEO Jan Sramek told KQED. “This is just the beginning. There’s more coming this summer.”

California Forever has made myriad promises tied to its ambitious plan in eastern Solano County, including adding 15,000 new jobs to the county, delivering community benefits packages and offering down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers. In recent months, the company has begun to announce how it plans to make good on those promises.

Most recently, the company said it would offer a $140,000 grant program to fund technical courses in IT support and data analytics to prepare residents for the jobs it promises will come once the initiative is approved. It also announced it would build a “Solano Sports Complex” with spaces for baseball, softball, football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics, swimming and other sports.

“The sports complex fills a need that we have in Solano County that every child deserves to play at a state-of-the-art facility,” Michael Fortney, California Forever’s director of partnerships, told KQED. “People will be traveling from all over the state and nationally to come to Solano County to compete here, they’ll be staying in our hotels, they’ll be shopping in our shops, they’ll be eating in our restaurants, and that will create a real economic boom for Solano County.”

The sports complex will be built only if the ballot initiative passes, but the money for the technical training grant program — along with $500,000 that the company has already doled out to local nonprofits — would be handed out before the initiative comes before voters.

Still, many are not convinced about the project and its lofty promises.

Last week, the Solano Land Trust, a conservation agency, officially came out against the project and urged voters to “vote no on a November ballot measure that would allow the development of the East Solano Plan.”

“After careful consideration, we reached the informed conclusion that a development of this magnitude will have a detrimental impact on Solano County’s water resources, air quality, traffic, farmland and natural environment,” Nicole Braddock, executive director of the organization, said in a statement (PDF). “The plan runs counter to Solano Land Trust’s mission of preserving land and water for current and future generations in Solano County.”

Solano Together, a grassroots organization opposed to the East Solano Plan, has started printing and handing out yard signs saying “No to California Forever” to those opposed to the plan. Other organizations, including Sustainable Solano, have also publicly opposed the project, citing concerns about a strain on water resources and traffic the new development might bring.

“I think it’s really easy to say no,” Sramek said on Tuesday, blaming the opposition on “special interest groups.” “What we are hearing from voters is this is the most credible plan that they’ve ever seen to make life better for working families in Solano County.”

lower waypoint
next waypoint