The Silicon Valley tycoons behind a secret $1 billion land grab near a California Air Force base have been accused of using “gang tactics” to harass residents — and local officials say that their plans to build a utopian city will not go ahead without a fight.
LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen are among the tech tycoons behind Flannery Associates, a group launching a federal price-fixing lawsuit against reluctant landowners while also owning some 55,000 acres of land near the military base in Solano Secures County, California.
However, Flannery’s wealthy supporters may now face a costly and complicated political battle over the necessary permits for their east Napa Valley project, including the rezoning of the land for residential use.
Local officials, including U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), whose district the base is in, told The Post they were baffled by the mysterious being’s plans on the dry, inhospitable farmland dotted with wind turbines is to build a futuristic city and abandoned gas wells and lacks basic infrastructure, including freeway access.
“The brutal gangster techniques they used to acquire the country raise very, very serious questions about their integrity,” said Garamendi, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“They clearly poisoned the well in Solano County,” Garamendi added. “Do they intend to develop in a way that protects Travis or not?”
As of 2018, Flannery Associates is the largest landowner in Solano County — an area between Napa, San Francisco, and Sacramento.
The group bought so much property near Travis Air Force Base in such secrecy that the government initially feared China had acquired the land for nefarious purposes.
Catherine Moy, the mayor of the city of Fairfield, said her office is investigating “every aspect to try to prevent Flannery” from going ahead with his plans. She estimated that “95% of the hundreds of people who have contacted me are against it.”
Garamendi and Moy both said they first learned the names of the group’s supporters after reading news reports last week.
In response, Moy said her office and other officials are already campaigning against the project if it goes to a vote – including forming a committee to coordinate the local response.
“I don’t think they can pull it off. I think it’s a bad investment unless they’re doing it for something else,” Moy said.
“Let’s be honest — you can have the names of these billionaires saying they’re behind it, or others saying that, but they can also have ties to China and others. I just don’t buy it. We are treating it as a broader threat.”
In May, Flannery filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a group of landowners did so violate the Sherman Antitrust Act colluding to drive up the price of their property.
In July, three of the owners announced a possible settlement with Flannery The New York Times reported. Other families recently filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
Flannery requires local oversight board approval for zoning changes made in part to protect Travis — a key hub known as the “Gateway to the Pacific” that handles a large volume of military air traffic, including supplies, to the war with Russia sent to Ukraine.
Other hurdles include obtaining approvals from the regional branch of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which governs land annexations and city and county changes.
The land owned by Flannery is also subject to federal regulations, including environmental laws regarding endangered species that thrive in the area.
Even if Flannery got all the necessary land and permits, Flannery would likely have to spend billions on new infrastructure.
For example, Moy said the country is currently being serviced by a single two-lane highway that is so dangerous that locals call it “Blood Alley” “because there are so many accidents and fatalities out there.”
Garamendi questioned whether the project’s developers had fully briefed investors on the challenges the project would need to overcome in order to move forward.
“It’s incredibly stupid … no developer would ever spend $800 million without talking to local authorities, but that’s exactly what they did here,” Garamendi said.
“Since I know what I know about these extremely wealthy people who obviously have a lot of money to throw around, I’m assuming you guys have no idea what you’re investing in,” he added.
Flannery will also seek support by putting forward his plan for a referendum – an attempt that began last week when Fairfield residents received an anonymous “push poll” asking how they would vote , if the city project were put on the ballot next year to a copy viewed by The Post.
“All of this protection for Travis depends on the county and the zoning requirements that the county dictates,” Garamendi said. “The push poll conducted by Flannery Associates, which is a total bullshit poll but was designed to set the stage, indicated from the start that they wanted to launch an initiative.”
The survey said the project would be a “new town with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over ten thousand acres of new parks and open space,” meaning “estimated to” generate thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for Solano County.”
Flannery is managed by Jan Sramek, a 36-year-old former Goldman Sachs trader.
Another key figure in the group is former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz.
“We are pleased to be involved in productive discussions with local leaders about our vision of creating high-paying jobs, affordable housing, walkable communities and open space for Solano County,” Flannery spokesman Brian Brokaw said in a statement.
“Our team is working closely with the community and local leaders to develop a shared vision for the future of Solano County, and our CEO Jan Sramek looks forward to working with Assemblyman Garamendi, Mayor Moy and other elected officials soon place to speak.”
In July, Garamendi and fellow Democratic US Representative Mike Thompson, whose district is also affected, called on the US Committee on Foreign Investments (CFIUS) to investigate the group’s origins.
Flannery had previously downplayed concerns about the project’s origins, claiming that 97% of the money came from American investors, with the rest from British or Irish backers.
Still, according to Moy, Flannery has “a fight ahead.”
“Five years after you start making plans, you don’t start pushing things on us,” Moy said. “That’s not the way we’re going about it here. You didn’t make any friends out here.”
“We will fight them politically. We will knock on all doors,” added Moy. “That’s how we get elected here – we’re good at talking to our neighbors.”