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Billionaire Investors' Town Hall Meetings

The Sili Valley billionaires' group that bought up land in rural Solano County to develop a new utopia have embarked on a series of Town Hall meetings across Solano County. They are apparently intending to put a measure on Solano County's November 2024 ballot. The first meeting, held in Vallejo on Nov. 29th, didn't go smoothly. Nor did the one in Rio Vista last Tuesday, and the one in Vacaville last night.

Future California Forward Town Hall meetings will be held at 5pm as follows:

  • Fairfield/Suisun— December 7, Willow Hall at The Fairfield Community Center.
  • Benicia— December 14, Charles P. Stone Hall and Spenger Memorial Garden at the Benicia Historical Museum.
  • Dixon — December 18, Dixon Town Hall at Dixon Olde Vets Hall.

From the sound of things, it might seem like the promoters of the proposed new town, called "California Forever", are just going through the motions of a "not-listening" tour so their marketing people can use it to try to convince voters next November that the developers care - really and truly care - about the communities they are steamrolling. Those of us here at California (un)Incorporated are used to seeing massive sprawl developments like California Forever.  In fact, a similar project, Mountain House in San Joaquin County, is now a community that is part of our coalition. But Mountain House was a master-planned development,  envisioned from Day One as a COMPLETE community, one that included consideration of governance in its strategy. To its credit, San Joaquin County created a Community Services District (CSD) to serve Mountain House - and even funded it. The County's intent has been to eventually let local residents vote on whether to continue with the CSD or to have it evolve into a new city. After many years, the voters will get to decide on that in March of next year. Orange County has similarly fostered the development of a new planned community at Ladera Ranch, another of our coalition's communities. There, though the County remains in charge of municipal services delivery, the County established a local Civic Council to help build the fabric of the community and to set the table for an eventual vote on incorporation. We certainly applaud San Joaquin and Orange Counties for striving to have complete communities based on local control.

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California Forever CEO Jan Sramek tries to wow the audience in Rio Vista on 12/05/2023 {photo credit: Chris Riley, Vallejo Times-Herald}

What's different in Solano County is that the developers are going AROUND the County and showing no concern for future governance. They are DISRUPTING the land use process with money (lots of it) and a marketing campaign intended to unduly influence voters into approving the project. While that might get the bulldozers moving, the concrete mixers mixing and the nailguns nailing, it does nothing about governance other than load up the County and the CHP with additional responsibilities when they already have their hands full trying to keep up with their areawide duties (or, in the case of the CHP, statewide duties) as well as the delivery of municipal services to other urbanized, unincorporated parts of the County. And that's likely to result in overlooked infrastructure maintenance and deterioration as the years go by - a problem the County will inevitably look to the state to help solve.

What’s going to happen in 30-40 years in this community when the construction jobs are gone and it’s all built up?
Former Vallejo Councilmember Katy Miessner, at the 11/29/23 Town Hall

Dealing with governance is the right way to create new cities in California, but California Forever doesn't fit that model. Unfortunately, the state of California doesn't do much to enable municipal governance for unincorporated area residents either. So we're not surprised that California Forever is seeing daylight, even though we are pessimistic as to its long-term viability. We would far prefer for the state of California to find ways to empower the 5,000,000 of its unincorporated area citizens - who are disenfranchised of rights and privileges accorded to residents of cities - to acquire local control and become self-governing, rather than look the other way while billionaire investors wreak havoc on open countryside.

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