Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle; Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME; Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair
- A company called Flannery Associates has been purchasing land in a county near San Francisco.
- The company has spent up to $15,000 per acre, court documents show.
- Silicon Valley has long sought to build a new city from scratch.
A mystery company backed by Silicon Valley billionaires has been snatching up land in a northern California county in an apparent bid to build an entirely new city in the state.
The New York Times reported those investors include some of the Valley’s most recognizable names, from Marc Andreessen to Laurene Powell Jobs.
The company, Flannery Associates, has spent $800 million to purchase thousands of acres of farmland in Solano County, which sits northeast of San Francisco, court documents obtained by Insider show.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Flannery has purchased about 52,000 acres of farmland around Travis Air Force Base since 2018. According to the report, government officials began investigating the purchases due to concerns that foreign interests may be behind the company.
Travis Air Force Base
“So the entire base is encircled now,” Catherine Moy, mayor of Fairfield, told ABC 7 News. “So there’s no part that isn’t touched by Flannery.”
Little is known about Flannery Associates or its specific city plans.
According to the Times, the company is led by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader.
It’s unclear how much they each invested in the company.
In 2017, Flannery Associates pitched an idea to turn the Solano County land into a walkable city powered by clean energy and housing tens of thousands of residents, The Times reported. Real estate data shows that the current median housing price in the county is $585,000.
In an email obtained by the Times, Moritz said that Flannery had purchased about 1,400 acres of land for less than $5,000 per acre.
But the spending price has since soared, with Flannery spending up to $15,000 per acre, lawyers for Flannery Associates said in court documents.
In May, the attorneys for Flannery filed a lawsuit against a group of Solano County landowners, saying they conspired to inflate their land prices.
The lawsuit alleges Flannery overpaid the owners by about $170,000,000 and is seeking damages of at least $510,000,000.
In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that was filed in July, the landowners said that they have “either engaged in good-faith, arms-length transactions for the sale of land, or were not tempted by Flannery’s prices, because they had no desire (or ability) to sell.”
Attorneys for Flannery Associates and the landowners did not respond to a request for comment outside of working hours.
Silicon Valley has long sought to build a city from scratch, sometimes with a utopian vision of a “smart city.”
In 2016, Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator, began looking into how it could build a city that could address California’s affordable housing crisis.
“We want to build cities for all humans — for tech and non-tech people,” the accelerator wrote. “We’re not interested in building ‘crazy libertarian utopias for techies.'”
Tech founders, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, have also had visions of their own cities.
Musk recently purchased 3,500 acres of land outside of Austin, Texas, to build a town he intends to call “Snailbrook.”
Sources told The Journal that he envisioned a “sort of Texas utopia along the Colorado River.”