Silicon Valley billionaires planning to build their own city

Previously, we discussed the mystery of a small company named Flannery Associates that has been buying up tens of thousands of acres of farmland surrounding Travis Air Force Base in California. They dropped nearly a billion dollars into the purchases, snapping up empty lots and farmland. 

But who would be doing that and why? 

At the time, people were speculating that it might be a front group acting on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, which wouldn’t have been surprising given how much U.S. land they’ve been grabbing lately. But now the new owners have stepped forward and it’s a very different situation indeed. 

Flannery Associates was funded by a group of elite Silicon Valley mega-investors from the tech sector. And they’re planning on building a brand new city there from scratch, designed to be their own private paradise away from the decay of San Francisco. 

How nice for them, eh? 

From the The Guardian:

After weeks of local speculation, the purchasers of 55,000 acres of northern California land have been revealed. The group Flannery Associates – backed by a cohort of Silicon Valley investors – has quietly purchased $800m worth of agricultural and empty land, the New York Times has reported. Their goal is to build a utopian new town that will offer its thousands of residents reliable public transportation and urban living, all of which would operate using clean energy…

Though Flannery has been purchasing farmland and empty plots over the past five years it has only recently started interacting with local officials and residents, according to the Times and local reports.

Flannery has purchased land from farmers for several times more than the market value and become the biggest landowners in Solano county, an area 60 miles north-east of San Francisco. The land bought by the firm encircles Travis air force base in Fairfield, a city of about 120,000 residents and home to the Anheuser-Busch Co brewery and the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory.

The list of investors is something of a “who’s who” of tech billionaires. The original idea was reportedly cooked up by Jan Sramek, a retired Goldman Sachs trader. He partnered with investment trader Michael Moritz, who has a reported net worth of more than 5 billion. They were joined by Steve Jobs’ widow and the founders of Linkedin and Stripe, along with other megawealthy Silicon Valley folks.

They are picturing a city with thousands of acres of parks, orchards with more than a million trees, “a reliable public transportation system,” and thousands of new homes. The whole project will be powered by their own massive solar farm (clean energy!) so they won’t have to rely on California’s increasingly creaky energy grid. It’s not mentioned, but you can bet that none of them will be doing without air conditioning and they’ll probably have a runway and a hanger for all of their private jets as well.

The real beauty of this plan is that they will wind up owning all of the land (and probably the roads) as far as the eye can see. That means they can set the real estate prices as high as they like and not risk having any of you filthy poor people showing up and looking to live among them. Of course, they’ll probably have to set up some sort of housing complex on the outskirts where all of their housekeepers and wait staff can live, but that’s probably what the “reliable public transportation” is for.

This dreamy vision of paradise may not come to fruition for decades, if ever, however. One analysis from the San Francisco Chronicle points out that simply having the land is only the first step. There are a lot of politics and permits involved in California land development. Lawsuits are already piling up and there will no doubt be many palms to be greased. But if anyone can pull it off, this small army of leftist billionaires is probably the most likely candidate.

As soon as I learned of this project, an evil idea crept into my mind. The moment they get the first building erected, how hilarious would it be if Greg Abbott sent a half dozen busloads of illegal migrants up there and dumped them off demanding shelter? After all, if anyone in the country should be able to afford to shoulder that burden, it’s this crew. But if they’re anything like the people of Martha’s Vineyard (a safe bet), the migrants will quickly and reliably be packed on another set of buses and sent to San Francisco where they can sleep on the streets with the rest of the members of their caste.

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