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Silicon Valley-backed voter plan for new California city qualifies for November ballot – Metro US

Silicon Valley-backed voter plan for new California city qualifies for November ballot

New California City
FILE – A map of a new proposed community in Solano County, Calif., is displayed during a news conference in Rio Vista, Calif. on Jan. 17, 2024. A Silicon Valley-backed initiative to build a green city for up to 400,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area has qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot. Voters will be asked to allow urban development on land currently zoned for agriculture. (AP Photo/Janie Har, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley-backed initiative to build a green city for up to 400,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area has qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot, elections officials said Tuesday.

Solano County’s registrar of voters said in a statement that the office verified a sufficient sampling of signatures. California Forever, the company behind the campaign, submitted well over the 13,000 valid signatures required to qualify.

The registrar is scheduled to present the results of the count to the county Board of Supervisors in two weeks, at which point the board can order an impact assessment report.

Voters will be asked to allow urban development on 27 square miles (70 square kilometers) of land between Travis Air Force Base and the Sacramento River Delta city of Rio Vista currently zoned for agriculture. The land-use change is necessary to build the homes, jobs and walkable downtown proposed by Jan Sramek, a former Goldman Sachs trader who heads up California Forever.

Sramek, who has the backing of wealthy investors such as philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, disclosed that the campaign spent $2 million in the first quarter of 2024.

He expects the amount spent to be higher in the second quarter, he told The Associated Press in an interview before the ballot initiative was certified.

Opposition to the effort includes conservation groups and some local and federal officials who say the plan is a speculative money grab rooted in secrecy. Sramek outraged locals by covertly purchasing more than $800 million in farmland and even suing farmers who refused to sell.

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

Sramek expects to have 50,000 residents in the new city within the next decade. The proposal includes 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.

Companies that specialize in aerospace and defense manufacturing and indoor vertical farming are among those expressing interest should voters approve the project, California Forever previously announced. It also plans on constructing a regional sports complex.