A billionaire-backed company has purchased tens of thousands of acres of land outside of San Francisco with the apparent intent of constructing an entirely new city, Insider and The New York Times are reporting.
The mysterious firm, dubbed Flannery Associates, has so far spent an eyewatering $800 million on mostly undeveloped ranch land in California's Solano County, court documents obtained by Insider show. And it hasn't done so alone, with the venture counting the likes of Laurene Powell Jobs, widow to Apple founder Steve Jobs, LinkedIn cofounder and "PayPal Mafia" alum Reid Hoffman, Sequoia Capital chair Michael Moritz, and — who else? — the ever-reliable Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as investors, among others.
Land records and correspondence show that Flannery Associates has been scooping up land for the city project since about 2017, and though very little is known about the plans for the city, Moritz, in a 2017 email to a prospective investor obtained the the NYT, reportedly described the utopian vision as a walkable, clean energy-powered, job-generating metropolis home to tens of thousands of residents, where new forms of urban government could be experimented with. If that's not a tech billionaire dream, we don't know what is.
"Let me know if this tickles your fancy," Moritz wrote in the email, according to the NYT.
Though the company has been raising money and gathering land for some time now, it's flown largely under the radar. Congressman John Garamendi, one of two Democrats who represents the surrounding region, told the NYT that he'd been trying to get to the bottom of who was behind the shady firm for the better part of four years now, albeit to no avail.
"I couldn't find out anything," Garamendi told the NYT.
That started to change back in May, when Flannery Associates sued Solano County landowners on grounds that area residents had engaged in artificial land price inflation. When Flannery first started buying up land, an acre was about $5,000 a pop; now, per Insider, it's somewhere around $20,000. Then in July, a Flannery Associates land purchase near California's Travis Air Force Base felt a little too close for comfort for local and federal officials, sparking a government inquiry. Former Goldman Sachs wunderkind Jan Sramek has also been revealed as the mastermind behind the effort.
The project is certainly ambitious, if unsurprising, given the lip service that any number of tech leaders — Moritz included — have given to SF's many woes. Indeed, in that 2017 email, Moritz argued that the Solano County effort "should relieve some of the Silicon Valley pressures we all feel — rising home prices, homelessness, congestion, etc."
To that end, though, it's worth noting that the effort feels deeply hypocritical. Sure, San Francisco has its problems, but many of those issues were exacerbated throughout the 2010s in large part by the tech industry. As far as running away from your problems goes, this has got to be the most expensive way to do it. But best of luck to Flannery Associates and its untitled town's future residents, who presumably will receive a complimentary Andreessen Horowitz-funded sexbot from their billionaire overlords upon arrival. Only if that "tickles your fancy," of course.
More on billionaires building towns: Report: Elon Musk is Building His Own Town in Texas
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