20 January 2024
Developers of a proposed new city in northern California have begun presenting their plans to voters.
Jan Sramek leads the project, called California Forever. Sramek is a former trader with American financial services company Goldman Sachs. He recently started a campaign to seek community support in Solano County for the new city.
The project needs the support because current community rules bar development of some agricultural land. California Forever needs the written support of 13,000 Solano County voters to propose the building project on a ballot in November elections.
Leaders of the project have already spent more than $800 million on land purchases in an area between San Francisco and Sacramento. Planners say they aim to create an environment friendly and walkable city with affordable housing and good jobs.
Among billionaire backers of the project are philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and investor and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.
Planners want to build about 20,000 homes for 50,000 residents. The city will sit between Travis Air Force Base and the small city of Rio Vista. The housing is to be built within walking distance to jobs, schools, restaurants and stores. Developers have suggested the city's population could one day reach 400,000.
Since it was formed in 2017, California Forever has bought more than 202 square kilometers of farmland in Solano County. The plan calls for $400 million to help Solano County residents buy homes in the proposed community.
Sramek has already held a series of community meetings around the county. But the efforts have not quieted critics who have been opposed to the project since the start of land-buying began in the area years ago.
The land California Forever is targeting sits in the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which serves as home to many fish and wildlife species. The Delta is also a source for the area's already limited water supply. Critics of the project worry that adding more development will further harm an already threatened ecosystem.
But supporters say Solano County is a smart place to build because the area has a big need for additional housing. There is especially a great need for affordable homes for teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers.
Gabriel Metcalf is head of planning for California Forever. He told The Associated Press he thinks Solano County is a good place because it will appeal to military contractors, as well as technology and construction companies seeking a new project.
Metcalf said, if "we can provide companies with a pathway to growth, we think we'll get some major employers creating jobs here that would otherwise go out of state, to places like Texas."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
affordable – adj. having a low price
philanthropist – n. someone who gives money to people who need help
ecosystem – n. all the living things in a particular area, as well as the ways the things affect each other and the environment