A new site has appeared online attempting to explain plans for massive Solano County land development.
California Forever, a company that wants to use Silicon Valley cash to develop a new city, promises to open a "conversation" with Solano County residents about it. Kiddo27 / Wikimedia Commons C.C. Share Alike 4.0 License
Barely more than a month ago, the media was just starting to notice that a mysterious company calling itself Flannery Associates was buying up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of land in Solano County—including, alarmingly, land surrounding Travis Air Force Base on three sides. Some lawmakers and federal investigators wondered aloud whether some sort of Chinese government entity was behind the suspicious land acquisitions.
The Chinese were getting a bad rap. Flannery’s real plan was to build a new city, or multiple new cities, on the 52,000-plus acres of land it had acquired since 2018.
Sramek, according to the California Forever site, moved to California “a decade ago” and in that time “spent time in Solano County during fishing trips on the California Delta and fell in love with the area.”
The purchases, as revealed in a New York Times report, were backed by an impressively high-profile consortium of Silicon Valley billionaires—including Netscape founder and prolific venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, Michael Moritz—former chair (he stepped down in July 2023) of venture capital giant Sequoia Capital, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple Founder.
Who is Jan Sramek?
Now, the company has posted a website, CaliforniaForever.com—California Forever is the parent company of Flannery Associates, the site says—which attempts to explain the group’s idea to “build a new community that attracts new employers, creates good paying local jobs, builds homes in walkable neighborhoods, leads in environment stewardship, and fuels a growing tax base to serve the county at large.”
The new site also reveals somewhat more detail about the company’s CEO Jan Sramek, whose identity was revealed in the New York Times story. Sramek, according to the California Forever site, moved to California “a decade ago” and in that time “spent time in Solano County during fishing trips on the California Delta and fell in love with the area.”
In fact, the site claims, Sramek and his wife Naytri “recently purchased their first-ever home in Solano, and they are excited to live here with their toddler daughter, her soon-to-arrive little brother, and golden retriever Bruce.” His LinkedIn page lists his location as Fairfield, a city of just under 120,000, and the Solano County seat.
California Forever’s new development will not, the site pledges, result in zoning changes for surrounding properties not owned by the company. Those will stay zoned for agricultural use, it says.
Sramek is not a Silicon Valley billionaire nor, it appears, a billionaire at all. The Czech-born 36-year-old was once a Wall Street wunderkind. As a 22-year-old Goldman Sachs trader with just six months on the job at the investment banking behemoth in 2009, Sramek was named by Fortune Magazine as one of financial industry’s “Rising Stars.”
He was just 22 when he co-authored—with another Wall Street star, Muzaffar Khan—a self-help book about “outperformance,” titled Racing Toward Excellence. According to his author’s bio on Amazon.com, Sramek also by that age had “founded and run four companies involved in social networking, graduate recruitment, West End night-club promotion and university admissions training. He has also founded a successful charity focusing on leveling out the playing field for applicants to Oxford and Cambridge.”
Impressive indeed. But just two years later Sramek’s rising star faded out, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. What is clear is that he moved on from Wall Street to embark on a series of entrepreneurial endeavors, with seemingly mixed results. He co-founded Better AG, a cloud-based “compliance training” firm that sold to another firm in 2016. He then co-founded an app called Memo Inc., but he and his partner shut it down in December 2016 because “we haven’t been able to achieve the growth that would justify additional investments, be that time or money,” they wrote in a blog entry.
Less than two years after that, he was secretly recruiting Silicon Valley power players to throw money into scooping up Solano County land, in sometimes ruthless fashion that one rancher in the county likened to a “hostile takeover.”
“Starting a Conversation”
What does the site, the most extensive public statement by the company to date, reveal about the planned new city in Solano County? Not much beyond what had previously been reported in national and local media. The new entity would include, according to the site, “a variety of land uses,” such as “solar farms and open space, including both agriculture and habitat conservation” in addition to the “new community.”
California Forever’s new development will not, the site pledges, result in zoning changes for surrounding properties not owned by the company. Those will stay zoned for agricultural use, it says. The company also attempts to calm fears that it could compromise national security by its close proximity to Travis Air Force Base, which is also Solano County’s largest employer with 34,000 workers.
The group’s project would “protect and support” the base, in part by “respecting Solano County’s official Travis Reserve Area, which is a security buffer for the protection of Travis Air Force base established by Solano County in its General Plan,” according to the site.
Dodd said that he did not believe the new city would ever actually happen—but that Sramek certainly did.
Beyond those few promises, the site’s main promise is that the company will now open a “conversation” with Solano County residents and officials. As part of that effort, California Forever says it will form a Community Advisory Board of Solano County residents, asking the public for nominations, and open offices in Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville, inviting members of the public to “come see us.”
Most importantly, however, the company acknowledges that under the county’s Orderly Growth Measure, new development must be confined to existing cities. Any other attempts to develop land must be approved by voters.
“We fully support these principles, and we will ultimately ask the voters to approve the project,” the California Forever site says.
Local Pols Aren’t Buying the Pitch
Sramek met with some local elected officials before the California Forever site went online—though other than the site itself he has declined other public comment. State Senator Bill Dodd said that in the meeting, Sramek apologized for “not being transparent” as his company bought up thousands of acres of land, according to a report by Sacramento’s KXTV News.
Dodd told the station that he did not believe the new city would ever actually happen—but that Sramek certainly did. Dodd called the California Forever idea “probably one of the most interesting land use developments that we've seen in the Bay Area in quite some time.”
U.S. House Rep Mike Thompson also met with Sramek and came away unconvinced.
“I think it's safe to say they don't have a plan,” Thompson told KXTV. “They have an idea. They have a dream and maybe a vision, but they don't have a plan.”
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