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By Sharan Street
Published Sep 05, 2023

The River Islands development will significantly expand the population and the footprint of the Central Valley city of Lathrop. The River Islands development will significantly expand the population and the footprint of the Central Valley city of Lathrop. Image credit: California Local

Exurban Sprawl

Earlier this summer, news began to spread about a mysterious group snapping up farmland southwest of Sacramento in Solano County the way Larry Ellison accumulates beachfront property. Because of the land’s proximity to Travis Air Force Base, hackles were raised over potential threats to national security posed by the entity—Delaware-based Flannery Associates.

A Cunning Plan

Turns out the goal was more prosaic: making money. This group of Silicon Valley investors wants to transform more than 50,000 rural acres into a megacity—“a kind of urban blank slate where everything from design to construction methods and new forms of governance could be rethought.”

In other words, a planned community—something not unfamiliar in the state of California. Reporter Jonathan Vankin digs into the history of planned communities, from Lakewood’s postwar suburb to the Walt Disney Company’s “Storyliving” master-planned communities, the first of which will be built within the city limits of Rancho Mirage.

Tech Titans Revealed as Buyers of $1 Billion of Land in Solano County

About 52,000 acres land in Solano County, southwest of Sacramento and east of the Napa Valley, will become a new “megacity” if a group of tech titans get their way.
The mysterious buyers of $1 billion worth of Solano County land have been revealed as a consortium of Silicon Valley billionaires who want to build a new city from scratch.

Solano County Planned City Latest in a California Tradition

Disney’s planned community of Celebration in Florida is far from Walt Disney’s earlier vision of a utopian city.
Silicon Valley billionaires want to create a new city in Solano County. How have planned cities fared in California? From Lakewood to Irvine to Disney’s new Cotino, there have been many.

City or CSD?

Whatever “new forms of governance” might be devised, Flannery Associates’ megacity will be fueled by the same economics that power growth east of the Bay Area: Silicon Valley migrants looking to stretch their housing dollars.

To see on a small scale what it’s like to build a city from scratch, look no further than Lathrop. The San Joaquin County municipality came into being in 1989, with plans that included a large resort/theme park. In 2001, when the city’s population was less than 11,000, plans changed to a development called River Islands in Lathrop: 11,000 homes, a town center, business parks, recreational areas. Naturally, the site was a flood plain; equally unsurprising, a coalition of conservation and fishing groups sued the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and River Islands. (The suit was settled in 2008.) And others have been critical about the site’s remote location, far from job centers and shopping, and its impact on local traffic.

Unlike the land purchased by Flannery Associates, River Islands is already part of a city and Lathrop is poised to embrace new arrivals. (Some 90% of the houses sold in River Islands were bought by former Bay Area residents.)

Will the Flannery team create a new incorporated city? The process is not simple. California has 482 incorporated cities and towns and many more “census designated places,” where residents are served by special districts. To find out more about the differences between these two types of governance, read on.

Cities in California: What Does it Take to Be One?

California has three cities of more than 1 million people, and 187 of over 50,000.
California is full of places and communities, but most are not cities. Here's what it takes for a community to become a city, the benefits of being one—and why the state has a 'de facto moratorium' on new cities.

Community Services Districts, Explained

There are more than 300 community service districts in California.
Community service districts can do most anything a city government can do. Here’s how they work and how to start one.

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Recent News

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• Placer County Animal Services Debuts New Shade Structures

Placer County Animal Services debuted two umbrella structures to provide shade and security for dogs, staff and volunteers. Funding was supported by two local dog-lovers.

(09/04/2023) → YubaNet

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California wildfires every year emit as much carbon as almost 2 million cars, posing a threat to efforts to battle climate change.

(09/04/2023) → CalMatters

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(09/01/2023) → Daily Democrat

• Deputy’s Bathroom Break Led to Inmate’s Escape From Roseville Hospital

Placer County Sheriff Wayne Woo released a report on the July escape of murder suspect Eric James Abril from a Roseville hospital, detailing staffing shortages and policy failures that may have contributed to the incident.

(09/01/2023) → Read the full The Sacramento Bee report

• Wildfire, Soil Emissions Increasing Air Pollution in Remote Forests

Satellite data from across California’s landscapes reveal an increase in nitrogen dioxide levels in remote forest areas, and wildfire and soil emissions are likely the reasons why, according to a paper from UC Davis published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

(08/30/2023) → Daily Democrat

• 1,169 Acres in Rural Lincoln to be Preserved for Wildlife, Open Space

Placer County will contribute $910,000 toward the preservation of 1,169 acres in rural Lincoln, helping the county meet goals and objectives outlined in the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program and Placer County Conservation Program.

(08/29/2023) → Roseville Today
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Upcoming Government Meetings

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Event sponsor logo City of Lincoln / Parks and Recreation Commission
Wednesday September 6 2023   5:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Roseville / Roseville City Council Meetings
Wednesday September 6 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Auburn / SPECIAL MEETING: Arts Commission
Thursday September 7 2023   5:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Auburn / City Council Meetings
Monday September 11 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Roseville / Grants Advisory Commission
Tuesday September 12 2023   5:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Auburn / Economic Development Commission
Tuesday September 12 2023   5:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Auburn / Arts Commission
Tuesday September 12 2023   5:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Rocklin / Rocklin City Council Meeting
Tuesday September 12 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Lincoln / Lincoln City Council Meetings
Tuesday September 12 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo Town of Loomis / Loomis Town Council Meetings
Tuesday September 12 2023   7:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Lincoln / Economic Development Committee
Wednesday September 13 2023   9:00 AM
Event sponsor logo City of Rocklin / Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission
Wednesday September 13 2023   6:00 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Roseville / Planning Commission
Thursday September 14 2023   6:30 PM
Event sponsor logo City of Auburn / Greater Auburn Area Fire Safe Council
Friday September 15 2023   9:00 AM