'Clock Is Ticking' on Plan for Controversial New Eco-City

California Forever scrambles for signatures to get billionaire Sramek's initiative on November ballot
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 3, 2024 2:20 PM CST
'Clock Is Ticking' on Plan for Controversial New Eco-City
Local residents protest outside a press conference unveiling California Forever's plans after being shut out of the event held in Rio Vista, California, on Jan. 17.   (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

After two false starts, the billionaires behind a plan to build an eco-friendly city from scratch are behind schedule to put their proposal before California voters this November. Former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek unveiled his closely guarded ballot initiative for the proposed community between San Francisco and Sacramento in January, a plan that envisions 20,000 homes, transit infrastructure, schools, jobs, and green space for an initial 50,000 residents, per the AP.

  • Background: Sramek needs Solano County voters to allow urban development on rural land his company has stealthily purchased since 2018 for at least $800 million, to build what he's pitched as a walkable community for (eventually) up to 400,000 residents. Sramek hasn't said how much he's prepared to spend on the effort.
  • Signature-gathering: The county counsel's office issued a ballot title and summary for the initiative last week, allowing signature gatherers to hit the streets in search of the 13,000 they need—and preferably thousands more as a cushion.

  • Detractors: Opponents say the plan makes flashy promises but is shockingly light on details. Sramek has withdrawn the initiative twice: once in January after country officials asked for clarifying language, and again after Travis Air Force Base raised concerns about the proposal, including about the base's ability to conduct flight operations (the revised initiative establishes a larger buffer area between the development and the base).
  • Deadline: There is no firm one for submitting signatures, says John Gardner, Solano County's assistant registrar of voters. But the county's Board of Supervisors has only until Aug. 8 to approve the initiative's inclusion on the ballot, and elections officials have between 30 and 90 days to verify signatures. That 90-day window means the campaign would need to submit its paperwork by early May.
  • Optimism: Brian Brokaw, a spokesperson for the California Forever campaign, said he's confident about making the Nov. 5 ballot. "We've been walking a line of making sure we get this right and also realizing that the clock is ticking," he said. "At the same time, we believe that the amendments that we made to the measure will significantly help increase our chances of success in November." More here.
(More California Forever stories.)

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