SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The billionaire-backed investment firm that's quietly acquired more than 55,000 acres of Solano County farmland is revealing new details about its vision for a new city.
In an exclusive interview, the CEO of Flannery Associates, Jan Sramek spoke with the I-Team's Stephanie Sierra about his hope for the county's future.
According to Sramek, new offices will soon be coming to cities like Fairfield and Vallejo where residents can ask questions and share their ideas about the future of the county.
"It would be great to have old school shopping streets where we design the city in a way where everyone can live within five or 10 minutes of a grocery store and pharmacy," the CEO told the I-Team. "We would like to see streets and schools designed in a way where an eight year old can walk to school and parents don't have to ferry their kids everywhere."
Sramek says he envisions very few cars in this new city that will bring good paying jobs, sustainable infrastructure and clean energy to the area. According to him the proposed new city will have a new name that residents will help pick.
STEPHANIE SIERRA: "For years people have been wondering what is Flannery Associates? For our viewers who have been interested in this story. What would you tell them?"
JAN SRAMEK: "I would say that it's definitely not the Chinese. We have no Chinese investors of any kind. Flannery and the parent company, California Forever is a company that is proposing to build a new community in Eastern Solano County that is to be surrounded by renewable energy like solar farms and by open space, agriculture and habitat."
SIERRA: "So what is your vision for this city? What will it look like?"
SRAMEK: "Well I would say it will be one of the most walkable places in California, probably in America. And it would it would be a place that has a very traditional feeling to it. There's been a lot of speculation that we are building a utopia. That we are building some kind of a crazy park city. And all of those speculations couldn't be further away from the truth."
SIERRA: "Local, state and federal officials have raised concerns about the viability of this project, specifically citing the lack of infrastructure and the lack of water. Do you have specific plans to tackle those issues?"
SRAMEK: "I mean, we are in the early stages of talking to those officials and to the agencies.. so we don't have specific plans because we want to make sure that they are plans that are done together with all of the stakeholders and that they work for everyone involved."
According to Solano County officials, this project would be subject to voter approval.
SIERRA: "Do you think you'll have the support needed?"
SRAMEK: "We are very confident that we will have the support I mean, I think that if anything, we've been really surprised over the last few weeks. The difference between what's in the press and what people say, I see a lot of skepticism about us in the press, but that's not what all my friends are telling me."
SIERRA: "Elected officials told us many times...If there's truly nothing nefarious going on, why keep it secret? Why did you?"
SRAMEK: "One of the outcomes of the research that we did in 2017 is that we felt very confident that we could build an amazing project and we had to assemble a large land holding...In order to do that, we had to be quiet about the plans so that we didn't have reckless speculation."
SIERRA: "But, that's exactly what happened."
SRAMEK: "I don't think that's what happened. I think what happened is we went to a lot of landowners and we offered them a premium, a significant premium several times over market values. And many of those landowners looked at that and said, this is a great deal and I would like to take it."
SIERRA: "Do you wish you would have done anything differently?"
SIERRA: "So you don't regret not coming forward with these plans sooner?"
SRAMEK: "No, I think making this project could only have happened if it was done in a very methodical way where someone could take a very long term view. And that included raising capital in a way where the company could take a 40 year view on this."
Sramek says he was unaware who leaked the email to the New York Times and he did not believe it was a member of his organization. He initially was hoping to reveal the new city plans to the public after Labor Day by putting out proposal for Solano County residents to vote on in late November.
"I mean, we would have clearly preferred to have to have done this more openly. But we felt that we would never have been able too unless someone acquired the property," Sramek said. "The project couldn't happen and couldn't have provided all these benefits to the community."
Sramek says after explaining his perspective to elected officials and residents of the county people have reacted positively.
"Once we explained why we did what we did, and it wasn't done lightly, but a lot of thought went into it...I've seen people react very positively and say, you know, you've made it more difficult for yourself, but I understand why you have to do it this way," he told the I-Team. "And there was no other way to do it."
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