Silicon Valley Group Planning To Build “California Forever” Utopia Wins Lawsuit Against Farmers and Secures $510M

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Apr 18, 2024

The Silicon Valley billionaires who are planning to build a “California Forever” utopian community have won a lawsuit against local farmers. This legal win has resulted in the tech billionaires securing $510 million in damages.

This legal movie is just the latest development in an ongoing land dispute in Solano County, California.

The “California Forever” Project

In the last few years, billionaires have begun to buy up land in Solano County, California in an attempt to create what they call a utopian society. This project, called the “California Forever” project, is being funded by the wealthy of Silicon Valley.

An aerial view of a neighborhood with homes, a pool, and many cars in Cupertino, California, in Silicon Valley.

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The enterprise is financially supported by Marc Andreessen and Michael Moritz, two Silicon Valley venture capitalists. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, as well as Laurene Powell Jobs, are also attached to the project financially.

A Utopian Society

California Forever has long publicized that they want to create a utopian society for people to live in. To do this, they’re buying up a lot of agricultural land, encouraging farmers in Solano County to sell to them.

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To create this ideal society, the enterprise wants to rezone about 18,600 acres. So far, Flannery Associates, which is the real estate section of the project, has spent more than $800 million in the purchasing of land.

Building a New City

According to Jan Sramek, California Forever’s CEO, this new city in Solano County will be a great place for many to live. The company wants to build thousands of new homes, all of which will be placed in walkable communities.

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On top of these homes, the project also intends to build various offices and businesses for the local community, such as offices for some of the biggest tech companies currently in Silicon Valley.

Controversy Over Project

Almost immediately after California Forever went public, many people in the local community — and elsewhere throughout California — had major issues with what these Silicon Valley billionaires planned to do.

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Many of these local farmers have expressed their disinterest in selling their land to billionaires. Others in the county have worried that this city — which will likely be created for the wealthy — will eventually price them out of the region.

The Creation of New Jobs

In response to these criticisms, Sramek has recently come out and explained that this new community will be for all. He anticipates that the utopia will create at least 15,000 new jobs.

A close-up of a Google building sign in Silicon Valley.

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Sramek has also said that local Solano County residents will be able to own homes in this new development.


Criticisms Remain

However, many criticisms remain. Both the local community and even lawmakers have waded into this battle. Many feel that California’s agricultural land shouldn’t be bought up and converted into a city built by billionaires.

An aerial view of San Francisco, seen at a distance.

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Others feel queasy about what it means for the wealthy to begin building cities themselves. To make matters worse, Sramek has repeatedly seemed to be off-putting to many in Solano County.


A Legal Battle

Things took a turn last year in May when Flannery Associates sued various landowners in Solano County on behalf of the ongoing California Forever project.

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According to Flannery, these farmers and landowners were working together to raise the prices of their properties — land that Flannery was looking to buy. As a result, they’ve stated that this is a violation of federal antitrust law.


Messages Between Ranchers

This legal case revealed various messages sent between ranchers which were used by Flannery lawyers to explain how the property owners colluded together to raise their prices.

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In one message, a rancher said that a Flannery associate was “bullying the last of the property owners.” This rancher then said that he had talked to other owners and they all agreed that the “remaining property owners should be in agreement on what we would want to sell our properties.”


Direct Evidence

Another property owner in the region admitted that they all could sell to Flannery — eventually. “No one is suggesting that we don’t sell, the question is when and at what price. Several of the other major land owners in the area are basically taking their time as well and not engaging,” one owner wrote.

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According to Judge Troy Nunley, a judge in the Sacramento U.S. District Court, these messages were “direct evidence” of the ranchers price fixing their properties.


A Legal Win

This major legal win for the California Forever project could help the entire enterprise further its goals of building this utopian community. Prior to this ruling, many ranchers had already settled with Flannery.

A bird’s eye view of Palo Alto, California, which is a part of Silicon Valley.

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The remaining farmers attached to the case tried to get it thrown out of court, which the judge denied. Now, Flannery has won $510 million in damages.


Another Hurdle

However, there are still quite a lot of hurdles California Forever will still have to deal with. Since the lawsuit, many ranchers and residents in the area have become outraged.

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Many city and county leaders have also blasted the project publicly, especially after they were accused of dishonestly getting many signatures to get one of their measures on the ballot in November.