Smart City, the controversial “California Forever” plan: What we know


From Giorgio Pirani
September 26, 2023 6:17 p.m

In recent months there has been a lot of talk about the acquisition of a little-known company like… Flannery Associates of approximately 52,000 acres of land (equivalent to 21,000 hectares) just outside of San Francisco, on which nearly $800 million was spent. In recent days, the main Italian and foreign newspapers have reported that Flannery Associates has bought the entire property to build a kind of smart city characterized by thousands of new jobs, solar-powered buildings and an innovative community that will attract more and more people. The company is funded by a group of billionaires and entrepreneurs Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen from the investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, Michael Moritz from the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The details of the project were generally laid out on the website, but sparked much controversy and discussion.

On Monday, Jan Sramek, founder and CEO of California Forever and a former Goldman Sachs executive, defended his decision to buy more than 52,000 acres of land in hopes of creating a new urban center and provided more information about Flannery’s plans Associates.

Sramek: “Many people feel excluded here”

The group clearly states that it has no intention of interfering with the activities of local farmers and ranchers. On the contrary, their main goal is to implement a large project that includes the construction of Tens of thousands of new houses, a large solar power plant, the creation of orchards with more than a million new trees and the use of over 40 square kilometers as parks and open spaces. California Forever’s name and those of its investors were discovered in August 2023 thanks to a federal investigation initiated after Flannery purchased land near the Travis military base, located near Fairfield, always in the county.

The main criticisms of the creation of this city relate to the secrecy of the group’s actions and the lack of concrete plans for the creation of the smart city, as well as the fact that many residents prefer the efforts and investments of millionaires to be concentrated in already existing places that are faced with housing and social cohesion problems. Sramek said on Monday:

We are taking the listening tour and community learning over the next four months very, very seriously. That’s why we don’t want to suggest plans until we’ve had a chance to listen and think about each topic. What we hear in Solano County [la zona dove gli acri di terra sono stati comprati, ndr] is that it is a district in which many people feel excluded and unemployed. We hope our projects can serve as a catalyst for more investment and more tax dollars in Solano County.

How we want to build the Smart City “California Forever”.

Sramek also revealed that the group has no intention of building a city right away and speculated that it could initially stay in unincorporated Solano County and then give voters in that new community a choice whether to secede from the county want or not. What has intrigued many about this new smart city is the way it will be built. Since presenting the project, Sramek has defined it as “City of Yesterday”, with the idea of ​​building terraced houses and basing much of the city’s economy on agriculture. More specifically, he explained:

We believe that in some places there is much wisdom in the way we have built cities and communities over the last hundreds of thousands of years. And so from the beginning we believed that in order to move forward we had to go back. We want to draw inspiration from the great old American neighborhoods that someone born 100 years ago will recognize. We are very different from the people who say they want to build the city of tomorrow. We want to build a city of yesterday.

The area chosen by Flannery for the project is also subject to regular droughts and a high risk of fire, but this does not appear to discourage plans to create this smart city.

The other entrepreneurs who want to build cities

It’s not the first time that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have proposed creating smart cities – adventures that often end before they even begin. Like Google did when it wanted to create something in 2017 Toronto sidewalk, a citadel with the idea of ​​creating a fully connected city and making it the center of urban innovation. However, the project was abandoned in 2020 when Sidewalk Labs, a Google subsidiary focused on urban innovation, withdrew from the project due to the high risk of authoritarian drift through mass surveillance.

Also Bill Gates In 2017, he became fascinated with creating smart cities; He was part of a consortium of partners that invested $80 million to buy just over 10,000 acres of land in a desert area near Phoenix, where the Belmont.

The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk Earlier this year, he bought 3,500 acres of land outside Austin, Texas, to build a city he called “Schneckenbrook. The acquired area will become the headquarters of SpaceX and The Boring Company, a place where all of the companies’ employees can live, sleep and work. The aim of this initiative is, at least in theory, to promote the balance between employees’ private and professional lives.

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