Details on the investors gobbling up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of land near a military base in California thought to be a “national security” risk included their reported goal.
Long have residents of Solano County, California been voicing their concern over roughly 55,000 acres of land purchased around Travis Air Force Base by an anonymous group of investors. Now, amid suspicion that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had a hand in the land grab, The New York Times reported that a group of Silicon Valley investors was behind Flannery Associates.
“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,” the newspaper detailed Friday.
The report, based on accounts of “three people who were not authorized to speak publicly” noted that those investors included billionaire venture capitalist Michael Moritz; “Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder, venture capitalist and Democratic donor; Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon, investors at the Andreesen Horowitz venture capital firm; Patrick and John Collison, the sibling co-founders of the payments company Stripe; Laurene Powell Jobs, founder of the Emerson Collective; and Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, entrepreneurs turned investors.”
Previously, it had been reported that Flannery Associates had been approaching landowners since 2018 in Solano County with deals over market value totaling around $800 million in purchases. That same group had filed suit against the landowners, accusing them of colluding to overcharge the anonymous investors.
Suspicious company that bought 55,000 acres of land surrounding US military base SUES local farmers for price gouginghttps://t.co/Ia6q1IJgQD
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) August 1, 2023
California Rep. John Garamendi (D) had charged that the suit was “designed to force the farmers to lawyer up, spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyering and maybe at the end of the day, bankrupt themselves. In fact, that has happened to at least one family that I know of and I’ve heard rumors that another family simply said we can’t afford the lawyers.”
However, while the congressman had also voiced concerns that Flannery’s backers could be using Chinese money and posing a risk to “national security,” a statement from the group’s spokesperson Brian Brokaw reported by the Wall Street Journal spoke of altruistic goals.
“We are proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable information, open space and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County,” he said of a proposed plan to build a new city that sounded a great deal like proposed 15-minute cities with sustainable energy and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
The spokesman added, “We are excited to start working with residents and elected officials, as well as with Travis Air Force Base.”
Meanwhile, as it was unclear how much of the approximately $800 million could be attributed to the investors or where their funds may have originated, Garamendi re-upped concerns to the Journal and said, “There’s just a whole host of questions about their megacity. What are you guys doing with Travis? What are your intentions here?”
Development of a 300-acre plot purchased by a CCP-backed group had been blocked last year in North Dakota near Grand Forks Air Force Base and the Florida legislature had worked with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to enact a ban against the CCP purchasing “farmland or land near our critical infrastructure.”
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