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Voters will weigh in on whether tech billionaires can build a new city in California

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Voters will weigh in on whether tech billionaires can build a new city in California

Northern California voters will have a say in whether a controversial plan backed by Silicon Valley billionaires to build a new city north of San Francisco can move forward.

California Forever, the company behind the initiative to build a green city for up to 400,000 people on California farmland, submitted more than 13,000 valid signatures needed to put it on the Nov. 5 ballot, election officials said Tuesday.

Solano County’s registrar of voters said in a statement that the office verified a sufficient sample of signatures.

The recorder is scheduled to present the recount results to the county board of supervisors in two weeks, at which time the board can request an impact assessment report.

Voters will be asked to allow urban development on a 70-square-kilometer (27-square-mile) tract of land between Travis Air Force Base and the Sacramento River Delta city of Rio Vista, which is currently divided into areas for agriculture. That land-use change is necessary to build the housing, jobs and walkable downtown proposed by California Forever.

California Forever’s plan is controversial.

The company is run by Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader, and is backed by wealthy investors such as philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.

This artist rendering provided by California Forever shows a walkable street in a proposed new city in Solano County, California. Photo: AP

They envision a new city with walkable neighborhoods, climate-friendly infrastructure, green energy jobs, and affordable housing. “I think cities are perhaps humanity’s greatest inventions,” Gabriel Metcalf, the urban planner hired to design the new city, told The Guardian earlier this year, adding that he hoped the plan could play a role in the solution. of California’s crushing housing crisis.

But the way the company has acted has outraged many locals. For years, California Forever quietly bought $800 million in farmland in the rural county, suing farmers who refused to sell.

Also opposed to the plan are conservation groups and some local and federal officials who say the plan is a speculative money grab based on secrecy.

The Solano Land Trust, which protects open lands, said last week that large-scale development “will have a detrimental impact on water resources, air quality, traffic, farmland and the natural environment of Colorado County.” Solano”.

In recent months, California Forever has tried to convince local residents of its good intentions. He has proposed an initial $400 million to help residents buy homes in the community, as well as an initial guarantee of 15,000 local jobs paying a salary of at least $88,000 a year.

Sramek revealed that the company spent $2 million campaigning for the project in the first quarter of 2024. It expects the amount spent to be higher in the second quarter. said The Associated Press.

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