Flannery Associates is comprised of a group of ultra-wealthy Silicon Valley investors acquiring vast parcels of land northeast of San Francisco with the mission to build a new California city “from scratch.”
The group has invested more than $800 million on almost 54,000 acres of agriculture-zoned land surrounding the Travis Air Force base in Solano County, California, since 2018, public records revealed.
Despite early speculation that China was behind the purchases, and as companies with ties to China have been ramping up efforts to buy American farmland, legal representation for Flannery has maintained the group is controlled by U.S. citizens, with 97% of its capital coming from U.S.-based investors.
Among some of the group’s investors are LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, prominent Silicon Valley investor Michael Moritz and Stripe co-founders and siblings Patrick and John Collison.
“Oh, I’ve been around a long time. And I’ve seen these kinds of pie in the sky, utopian cities come and go. If I were an investor in this, I’d be very, very concerned,” Garamendi said.
Flannery Associates is now the largest land owner in California’s Solano County, which is 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. And investors have spent well above the market value for the 55 acres of farmland.
But Garamendi said the company has strong-armed farmers out of their land, pressuring them with legal action to fork their properties over.
“These folks have used strong-arm mobster techniques to try to force landowners to sell generational family farms. Farmers have been sued for their unwillingness to sell because they don’t want to sell their family farm,” Garamendi said.
The group hopes to transform the farmland into a so-called “utopian city,” offering clean energy, reliable transportation and thousands of jobs. However, the land is not currently zoned for urban development, and Garamendi has national security concerns, too, with the location of the project being so close to the Air Force base.
“Presently, that land is zoned in such a way that development cannot take place there. If they take the initiative. If they override the current zoning plans, then they could encroach on the base operation,” he said.
Residents of Solano County must vote to re-zone the land, something Garamendi says will be an uphill battle and doesn’t address state and federal rules as well.
Representatives for Flannery have reached out to Garamendi to discuss their plans but he isn’t convinced they have a solid plan in place and wants to speak with their developer.
“I don’t think they have an individual that actually knows what it takes to build a new city, the billions of dollars that will be necessary to put in the streets, the roads. And by the way, they’re going to have to build about 12 miles of new state highway, which goes right through their property. I don’t think they have a clue what they’re doing,” Garamendi said.
In the meantime, Flannery still has an ongoing lawsuit against the farmers for $510 million, alleging they colluded to inflate the price of the land.
According to the New York Times, lawmakers representing some of the land-owners have filed to dismiss the case and others have already reached potential settlements with Flannery.
“We’re ready for a sit-down discussion. And if that doesn’t work, we’re ready to have a brawl to protect the base,” Garamendi said.
Flannery Associates plans to continue meeting with Solano County residents and elected officials this week to discuss their project, the New York Times reported.
Devan Markham contributed to this report.