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Solano County Supervisors Want To Know More About California Forever Before It’s on the Ballot

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Solano County Supervisors (from left) John M. Vasquez, Mitch Mashburn and Monica Brown attend a Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting in Fairfield on June 25, 2024. The board voted unanimously to delay adding a controversial plan to the November ballot that proposes to build a city from scratch over what is now farmland.  (Martin do Nascimento/KQED)

After a packed three-hour meeting Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to delay placing a controversial proposal on the November ballot to build a city from scratch over what is now farmland.  

The board followed the suggestion of the county administrator’s office and requested a study looking at the project’s impacts on existing cities in the area. The administrator’s office and the Solano County Department of Resource Management will compile the report and present it to the board in late July, at which time the board could decide to approve the proposed new city or place it on the November ballot.

The initiative from the billionaire-backed California Forever company — which promises a walkable city with enough housing to eventually bring some 400,000 new residents and 15,000 new jobs, along with millions of dollars in down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers — has drawn skepticism, criticism and admiration since it was first proposed last fall. Some of the skepticism was on display Tuesday, with Supervisor Monica Brown refraining from swearing outright in her initial comments to the board, but coming close.

“All of us need to know what the ‘H’ this is going to do to our community,” Brown said, adding that requesting the report “is the only option I would ever agree to.”

Supervisor John Vasquez said the county will hire consultants to help compile the report and added that the administrator’s office has already started to analyze the plan’s impacts. 


“I just want the public to know that we haven’t just been sitting here waiting for this day,” he said. “The work has already proceeded, and it has been going on for a number of months.”

Jan Sramek (second from right), CEO of California Forever, listens to public comments during a Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting in Fairfield on June 25, 2024. (Martin do Nascimento/KQED)

On Monday, California Forever announced a partnership with the healthcare company NorthBay Health, which plans to open at least six clinics throughout the county over the next two years, including one in Rio Vista. It’s one of the many promises the company has made on its path to the November ballot as it seeks to woo potential voters.

Those promises have included building a new wastewater treatment facility to process thousands of gallons of recycled water and to build a regional sports complex with facilities for almost any sport imaginable.

But several supervisors were skeptical of the company’s ability to deliver on all those promises, with Supervisor Wanda Williams particularly curious about the company’s “Ten Guarantees” and how the county could hold California Forever accountable to deliver on all of them.

“We would have to depend on California Forever and this initiative to make sure they do it themselves; we can’t force them to do it,” she said of the company’s promises. “We don’t even have an environmental impact report to understand the implications of the initiative.”

Attendees of a Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting wait in line to give public comment on the California Forever/East Solano Plan in Fairfield on June 25, 2024. (Martin do Nascimento/KQED)

Undeterred by the supervisors’ skepticism, California Forever CEO Jan Sramek left the meeting optimistic of his initiative’s chances at the ballot box and said, “If the election was held today, we would win.”

“If you look at the people who really believe in this plan, so many of them are working parents, young parents, people who have full time jobs,” he said. “Despite that, so many of them took time out of their day to come here and speak for the plan. So, we’re very confident about November.”

Throughout the two hours of public comment, support and opposition to California Forever’s plan was nearly evenly split. Those in favor mentioned the need for more affordable housing, jobs, and business opportunities and said growth in the county had come to a “standstill.”

Robert McGary, an ironworker and Fairfield resident, was particularly interested in California Forever’s promise to bring jobs to the county. 

“I have a son who is an ironworker, and he had to move out of California because he can’t afford to buy here, even though he makes a premium wage,” McGary said. “I think a lot of people [against the plan] are small minded in this — they don’t realize the future. It’s like steam engines back in the 1880s. Everybody wanted to keep their horses.”

Areanna Deloney holds a sign advocating against the California Forever/East Solano Plan outside a Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting in Fairfield on June 25, 2024. (Martin do Nascimento/KQED)

California YIMBY, a prominent pro-housing organization, voiced its support last week for the company’s project, claiming that the proposal “calls for housing densities that would rival the most walkable neighborhoods in California.”

This endorsement came as a shock to many others in the pro-housing movement, especially those who worry the ambitious plan could fizzle out into a collection of sleepy suburbs.

Residents who spoke in opposition raised concerns about the new city’s impacts on Travis Air Force Base, its water rights, the traffic it could bring and whether the housing would truly be affordable. 

Members from Solano Together, the leading organization opposed to the plan, came out in full force during the meeting, donning bright red stickers with the organization’s name and carrying signs reading, “No to California Forever.”

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Sarah Sorokin, a member of the organization, said her main concern was the loss of habitat in the Jepson Prairie and its vernal pools. 

“It contains species that are endemic just to these systems, and for me, I don’t see the rationale of getting rid of it,” she said. “Infill development, where there’s already infrastructure — our dollars will go much farther [there].”

Despite stark divisions among the meeting’s attendees, Supervisor Mitch Mashburn lauded their cordial conduct as emblematic of a functioning democracy.

“I hope the world is watching, and they see what it means for people to be able to come together and participate in the democratic process,” he said. “That is the way democracy should work.”


Mashburn has previously said he opposes the plan “on a personal level.” At Tuesday’s meeting, Mashburn said his final vote will come at the board’s next meeting in July. Regardless of how he feels, however, the supervisors will have only two options in front of them at that meeting: to approve California Forever’s plan or let the voters decide.

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