SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — The billionaire-backed investment firm that quietly acquired more than 55,000 acres of Solano County farmland is revealing new details about its vision for a new city.
In an exclusive interview, Flannery Associates CEO Jan Sramek spoke with the I-Team’s Stephanie Sierra about his hopes for the county’s future.
According to Sramek, new offices will soon be opening in cities like Fairfield and Vallejo, where residents can ask questions and share ideas about the county’s future.
“It would be great to have old-fashioned shopping streets where we designed the city so that everyone could live within five or ten minutes of a grocery store and a pharmacy,” the CEO told the I-Team. “We would like to see streets and schools designed so that an eight-year-old can walk to school and parents don’t have to carry their children everywhere.”
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Sramek says he envisions very few cars in this new city that will bring good-paying jobs, sustainable infrastructure and clean energy to the region. He said the proposed new city will have a new name that residents will help choose.
Stephanie Sierra: “For years people have been wondering what Flannery Associates is? For our viewers who have been interested in this story. What would you tell them?”
JAN SRAMEK: “I would say it’s definitely not the Chinese. We don’t have any Chinese investors of any kind. Flannery and its parent company, California Forever, are a company that is proposing to build a new community in eastern County Solano, surrounded by renewable energy such as solar farms and by open spaces, agriculture and housing.
SIERRA: “So what is your vision for this city? What will it look like?”
SRAMEK: “Well, I would say it would be one of the most walkable places in California, probably in America. And it would be a place that would have a very traditional feel. There’s been a lot of speculation that we’re building a utopia. …That we’re building some kind of crazy park city. And all this speculation couldn’t be further from the truth.
SIERRA: “Local, state and federal officials have expressed concerns about the viability of this project, specifically citing lack of infrastructure and lack of water. Do you have any specific plans to address these issues?”
SRAMEK: “I mean, we’re in the early stages of talking with these officials and with the agencies…so we don’t have specific plans because we want to make sure that these are plans that are developed with all parties stakeholders and who they work for everyone involved.
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According to Solano County officials, this project would be subject to voter approval.
SIERRA: “Do you think you will have the support you need?”
SRAMEK: “We’re very confident that we’ll have the support, I mean, I think we’ve been really surprised over the last few weeks. The difference between what’s in the press and what people are saying, I see a lot of skepticism. talk about us in the press, but that’s not what all my friends tell me.”
SIERRA: “Elected officials have told us this several times… If nothing bad is really happening, why keep it a secret? Why did you do it?”
SRAMEK: “One of the results of the research we did in 2017 was that we were very confident in our ability to build an incredible project and that we needed to put together a large plot of land… To do that, we needed to remain discreet about the plans so that we do not have rash speculation.
SIERRA: “But that’s exactly what happened.”
SRAMEK: “I don’t think that’s what happened. I think what happened was we went to a lot of landowners and offered them a bonus, a significant bonus many times over market values. And a lot of these landowners looked at that and said, ‘That’s a good deal and I’d like to take it.’
SIERRA: “Is there anything you wish you had done differently?” »
SIERRA: “So you don’t regret not coming up with these plans sooner?”
SRAMEK: “No, I think this project could only have happened if it had been done in a very methodical way, where someone could have a very long-term vision. And that involved raising capital in a very so that the company can have a 40-year vision.”
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Sramek said he didn’t know who leaked the email to the New York Times and he didn’t believe it was a member of his organization. He initially hoped to reveal the city’s new plans to the public after Labor Day by presenting a proposal that Solano County residents could vote on in late November.
“I mean, we definitely would have preferred to have had to do it more openly. But we felt we could never have done it as well unless someone acquired the property,” Sramek said. “The project could not have come to fruition and could not have brought all these benefits to the community.”
Sramek says after explaining his point of view to elected officials and county residents, people responded positively.
“Once we explained why we did what we did, and it wasn’t done lightly, but a lot of thought went into it…I saw people react very positively and say, you know, you’ve done it harder for yourself, but I understand why you have to do it this way,” he told the I-Team. “And there was no other way to do it.”
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