Light Wave


Billionaire backers face pushback on plans for brand new city in rural California

By Jake Beardslee · January 17, 2024

In brief…

  • Company wants to build new city on rural land in Solano County, needs voter approval
  • Proposal features medium-density housing unlike traditional suburbs
  • Developers trying to address concerns like water, jobs, and road improvements
  • Funded by wealthy tech investors, faces skepticism from local voters
A company backed by billionaire tech investors aims to build a new medium-density city in Solano County but first must overcome local opposition and get voter approval to develop the rural land.  Klink707/Wikimedia

A company backed by billionaire tech investors is aiming to build a new city in California’s Solano County, but first needs to win over skeptical voters.

California Forever, which quietly acquired 60,000 acres of rural farmland northeast of San Francisco, hopes to transform a portion of that land into a pedestrian-friendly community that could eventually be home to 400,000 residents. The proposed development would consist of apartments and townhouses in a medium-density layout, unlike traditional suburban sprawl.

The location, on windswept agricultural land near the small town of Rio Vista, violates Solano County’s longstanding growth plans, meaning California Forever needs voter approval to proceed. So far, reaction at recent town halls has been staunchly negative, with many opposing new development outside existing cities, Politico reported.

In response, California Forever has tried assuaging concerns by pledging to set aside land around nearby Travis Air Force Base to avoid hindering operations. It also promises at least 15,000 high-paying jobs once the first 50,000 residents arrive. Furthermore, the company claims it can acquire sufficient water and fund highway improvements.

The proposed community will have dense, walkable streets and no large-lot homes, just apartments and attached townhouses. California Forever must collect about 14,000 valid signatures by April to put the plan on November’s ballot. If approved, infrastructure could start by 2026.

Backers of the controversial proposal include wealthy Silicon Valley figures like Sequoia’s Michael Moritz, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Stripe’s Collison brothers, and Netscape’s Marc Andreessen. Their deep pockets could fund a substantial campaign, but winning over voters wary of sprawl and unplanned growth poses a real challenge.