Ballot language emerges for proposed planned city near Sacramento

Tech billionaires and investors are backing a project that they say will help the middle class afford to live in California.

Solano County voters will have an opportunity to push through an effort to create a new city designed to be walkable and affordable for the middle class. 

California Forever, the company behind the proposal, submitted the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative to Solano County on Wednesday. 


The backstory: California Forever, which formed in 2017, has spent $800 million purchasing nearly 80 square miles of farmland in Solano County west of Rio Vista. 

  • However, the company cannot just move ahead and build the planned city since county voters approved protections in 1984 that prevent farmland from being turned into urban space. 

The big picture: That leads California Forever to the ballot, needing about 13,000 signatures from county voters to appear on the November ballot to gain approval for the city. 

  • California Forever, which is led by former Goldman Sachs Jan Sramek, envisions a new community with safe, walkable neighborhoods, homes that the middle class can afford, green spaces and good-paying jobs in a variety of fields, such as advanced manufacturing, renewable energy and construction. 
  • The proposed city would feature neighborhoods with small blocks of row houses and small apartment buildings centered around shopping streets and schools. 
  • Over 20 percent of the community would be used for parks, trails, community gardens and other types of open space. 
  • The proposal is also backed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist Michael Moritz, Laurene Powell Jobs – the wife of the late Steve Jobs – and software developer Marc Andreesen.

Go deeper: If approved by the voters, the initiative contains a provision requiring the project to create at least 15,000 jobs that pay at least 125 percent of Solano County’s weekly wage by the time the city grows to a population of 50,000. If California Forever fails to provide that, the company will be barred from building more homes. 

  • California Forever also commits to providing $500 million in downpayment assistance, scholarships and parks for Solano County residents. 
  • The company would also invest $200 million to improve and revitalize the downtowns of Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville and Vallejo. 

What we’re watching: California Forever can begin collecting signatures from Solano County voters in February. The company said in a blog post that it will hold a series of public events in February and March to answer questions from voters.

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