- Published: 18 October 2023
Solano County in Northern California will soon become the home for a 'built from the ground up city' created by tech billionaires like venture capitalists Michael Moritz and Mark Andreessen, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, among others. This area is near Travis Air Force Base, and when thousands of acres were bought in this area, the buyers were doing it secretly.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the project is called California Forever, and the group's website, California Forever, shows rolling hills and towns, waterfront villas, and a village square. It will be built on 50,000 acres of agricultural land.
This project would be a completely new city with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over 10,000 acres of new parks and open space.
The project began around 2017, and since then, the buyers of the land have been kept under the radar, and only recently, the backers, vision, and scope of this vast land purchase became known.
In August, The New York Times broke open the story, and the world discovered who was behind the project and its goals.
The company behind it is Flannery Associates.
According to the New York Times, "Flannery is the brainchild of Jan Sramek, 36, a former Goldman Sachs trader who has quietly courted some of the tech industry's biggest names as investors, according to the pitch and people familiar with the matter. The company's ambitions expand on the 2017 pitch: Take an arid patch of brown hills cut by a two-lane highway between suburbs and rural land and convert it into a community with tens of thousands of residents, clean energy, public transportation, and dense urban life."
Since news of this project came to light, many stories and comments have been made by California officials and local area leaders who have differing opinions about the project. For example, this proposed city will need major federal and state agreements on infrastructure issues, water rights, and a plethora of other considerations for it to become a reality.
There is a legitimate interest in this concept city which promises thousands of new houses, jobs, and a solar-powered area with large parks that could potentially ease the housing demands in California. However, some see it more as a land grab by billionaires to create a utopian city that favors their lifestyles and provide them more privacy.
The billionaires are not behind this project just to be altruistic. They see this city's creation as a highly profitable venture that will reward them handsomely in the future.
But what truly intrigues me about the California Forever project is that all those backing it are seasoned visionaries and entrepreneurs at heart. When they see a problem, they are motivated to solve it. I suspect that while they plan to profit from the venture, I also believe that they are looking hard at the idea of innovating by looking at creating a city with a green-field mentality. Whatever problem they encounter in building this city, they can invent and innovate a solution beyond how things are done today.
Imagine a city where all the streets have sensors that can provide all types of data points needed for self-driving cars, smart crosswalks, monitoring traffic, and directions to open parking spots. Or smart buildings that control all their spaces to manage heat, AC, door locks, advanced security, etc. Perhaps all of the stores in the city could become cashless and operate like the Amazon cashierless 'GO' stores like the ones Amazon opened in Seattle.
At the moment, creating smart cities today must be done through tedious retrofitting. But imagine building a digital smart city from scratch instead.
Bringing a vision for a city like this to reality may take another decade. But if the backers approach it as a green-field project, it could become a blueprint for how smart cities could be built in the future.
While I am sure it will be a controversial project to many, if viewed as a means to create a smart city of the future, build thousands of new houses, create excellent job opportunities, etc., this project has merit and is one to watch closely in the future.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Tim Bajarin
Quelle/Source: Forbes, 10.10.2023