Greenbelt Alliance

Greenbelt Alliance

Protect Solano County from Sprawl Development

Over the last five years, a group of billionaire Silicon Valley investors called ‘Flannery Associates’ have put down $800m for 55,000 acres of agricultural land in Southeastern Solano County in a proposed development project called California Forever.

Flannery Associates proclaims to want to build a utopian city, offering its residents urban living and access to public transit, operating on clean energy.

But the development of a remote, isolated city by paving over this farmland and hillside creates a number of environmental and economic problems, causing alarm among environmentalists, residents, farmers, and many others who advocate for a more equitable, affordable, and environmentally sustainable region.

Greenbelt Alliance was founded 65 years ago by local community activists sounding the alarm on development proposals on iconic Bay Area landscapes that would be damaging to communities and ecosystems alike. We’ve paired our advocacy for open space protection with strong support for new climate smart development within our existing cities and towns.

And we’re continuing to support environmentally sustainable growth and mobilize against harmful developments over six decades later.

We are bringing people together to share resources and data, “California Forever” project updates, and advocacy opportunities.

Why We’re Concerned About “California Forever”:

20% of lands proposed for development are in a flood inundation zone, where natural and working lands play a critical role in reducing the intensity of flood events and recharging the aquifer—an increasingly important role in the cycle of droughts and flooding exacerbated by climate change. Also, roughly 135 acres of Flannery-owned land has been identified as suitable marsh migration space, which are critical areas to protect and manage to ensure that coastal ecosystems and wetlands can migrate inland as sea levels rise

There is nothing “innovative” about purchasing land that is priced for farm and ranch uses and then subdividing and rezoning parcels for sprawl—Californian developers and investors have made millions of dollars doing this for decades. This traditional model ignores natural and working lands’ multiple ecological and economic benefits in favor of launching “new communities” without investing in our current neighborhoods. It exacerbates our car-dependent culture and necessitates long, costly, and GHG-intensive commutes.

A generation ago, we reduced our investment in revitalizing our existing urban cities to build a ring of suburbs, which drove up housing prices near jobs and transit, exacerbated dependence on cars, and reduced time for recreation and family. This proposal seems to double down on this pattern, leapfrogging over the current outer ring of suburbs to start over even further out.

The remote location where the development is proposed faces immense transit challenges. The only potentially viable public transportation option to commute between “California Forever” and downtown San Francisco is to bus to the Fairfield-Suisun Amtrak station, Amtrak down to Emeryville and then take another bus across the Bay Bridge. It’ll take you about 3 hours. Building new mass transit systems has proved immensely challenging in California, even where there are persistent needs to connect existing dense communities.

The lands proposed for development are currently providing carbon storage benefits crucial for curbing climate change risks: the equivalent of 101,011 metric tons of greenhouse gas is stored in the region in the above-ground vegetation, according to this Conservation Lands Network report.

The initial California Forever website actually touts its backward-looking thinking. The website mentions that the project is based on “Regional Plan 1970-1990” and “Future Development of the San Francisco Bay Area, 1960-2020.” These plans were firmly rooted in the prevailing thought of planners and developers at the time that we should build new cities on the farmland, wetlands, open spaces, and hillsides surrounding our region. The Bay Area’s current regional vision—based on detailed data on housing, transportation, and economic, and environmental needs—says otherwise

The region’s ranchlands have provided livelihoods to generations of Solano County farmers. As farmer Al Medvitz says in this San Francisco article, “With this new proposal and the way the new people are behaving, all of that is going to be lost.”

Why Bay Area Residents Are Concerned

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"California Forever" In The News

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Why Greenbelt Alliance is Taking Action

In 2008, multiple interests around Solano County, including Greenbelt Alliance organized to support an updated Orderly Growth Initiative. Originally adopted in 1984, the Initiative affirms a strategy of city-centered growth and protects and supports Solano County’s agricultural lands by preventing certain developments. Over 70% of voters supported this measure, which signaled to outside developers such as Flannery Associates that this type of proposal is not appropriate for Solano County.

Greenbelt Alliance is proud to have worked with leaders throughout Solano County several years ago to protect the irreplaceable agricultural and natural areas within the county while directing growth and development into existing cities through the Orderly Growth Initiative, adopted originally in 1984 and renewed in 2008.

And with “California Forever,” the fight is ongoing. Read more below.

Amanda Brown-Stevens

For New Development, Let’s Look Toward the Future, Not the Past

Before the hype about “California Forever,” Southeastern Solano County may not have been top of mind for many Californians. But recent headlines are drawing more attention to this remote and agrarian region. Initial information about this billionaire funded “city of the future” touts appealing phrases like walkable neighborhoods and environment stewardship in their vague plans,

Read More »

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