"So, what will that area around the base be used for?"
SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The CEO of the investment firm behind a massive land acquisition in Solano County is revealing to the ABC7 News I-Team what he provided to federal investigators and when. This follows a nearly year-long probe looking into national security concerns that were raised by Congressional leaders.
Jan Sramek founded California Forever, the parent company of Flannery Associates, in 2017. According to public records, the land purchases around Travis Air Force Base began in 2018. For five years, the firm quietly acquired more than 55,000 acres of land purchased for nearly $1 billion.
In an exclusive interview, Sramek sat down with the I-Team's Stephanie Sierra to discuss his vision for a new city. In the second part of the hour-long interview, the CEO addressed concerns about the land acquired near the base and the ongoing federal investigation.
Stephanie: "Do you wish you would have done anything differently?"
Stephanie: "So you don't regret not coming forward with these plans earlier?"
Jan: "I think 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."
Stephanie: "Did you see our stories?"
Jan: "I did, yeah."
Stephanie: "So, you were aware of both Congressmen raising alarm that there was a possible threat to national security. Did you have any thought to call them after you saw those stories?"
Jan: "I felt that if they if they if they wanted the answers, they should have reached out for months.
Stephanie: "For the better part of a year... people were concerned that this all could be tied to a foreign adversary."
Jan: "I mean, we've provided information to the federal government. We provided the whole investor list to the federal government a long time ago."
Stephanie: "The entire investor list?"
Stephanie: "When you say a long time ago, when was that?"
Jan: "At least six months ago."
Stephanie: "Six months ago. But, these purchases started back in 2018..."
Jan: "That was the first time anyone asked us. So, I mean, we've always taken the view that if there was any concern about these investments, particularly in light of national security, that we would hear from the appropriate agencies within the government. And we were providing information. And the moment that we heard from the federal government that there was a concern about this being China, we gave them the information they needed to make sure that it wasn't."
The Solano County Administrator Bill Emlen and Solano County Assessor Glenn Zook both told the I-Team they've worked with plenty of investment groups and developers in the past and they're usually involved in their plans to assess the viability of how it would work under local regulations.
Stephanie: "Do you think you should have done that?"
Jan: "We are doing that....we have told them that we would like them to be as involved as they can be in the process."
Stephanie: "I mean back in 2018... do you think you should have done that when you started this process?"
Jan: "I think we would have put them in a very difficult position if we had done that. And so I think what you often see is that someone will come in and they will acquire the properties and then once they've acquired the properties then they will come forward with the plans. And so I think the process we followed is, is very similar to what other people do."
Concerns around Travis Air Force Base
Stephanie: "Zoning concerns around Travis Air Force Base have certainly raised alarm bells for local, state and federal officials who represent the area. Specifically, Congressman Garamendi, who told us last week he cannot rule out a threat to national security at this point in time, given the zoning overlay for Travis. What's your response?"
Jan: "We told the Congressman and we've told it to many of the local officials as well. We will not change the Travis Reserves zoning overlay. And so this is a zone that protects about, I want to say, 7,000 acres around Travis. And we've been very clear that we are not going to use the initiative to change that.
Sramek told the I-Team anything that he does in the zone around Travis would only be done with the support of Travis and the greater defense community.
Stephanie: "So, what will that area around the base be used for?"
Jan: "It could be used for many things... We have discussed growing olive orchards there. And one of the things that we're working on right now is talking to the defense community about how we can make Travis stronger... It could be used for many things, but it will only be done if Travis supports it."
Stephanie: "When did you first reach out to Travis Air Force Base?"
Jan: "After we announced, basically immediately after we announced the plans publicly... a month ago, probably."
Stephanie: "So no communication before that?"
Jan: "I mean, we've had communications with Travis. We've had conversations with Travis going back several years where the base does tactical things that they need. They need easements, to monitor cleanup activities. They need easements for water. They need kind of practical day-to-day property management issues."
Stephanie: "If the intent was to build a city years ago, why did you purchase land around Travis Air Force Base early on?"
Jan: "Because we wanted to be able to work with Travis in a way that that protects Travis and that makes Travis stronger."
Stephanie: "How can you work with Travis if you only communicated with them a month ago for the first time?"
Jan: "Because we never proposed to do anything before then. We knew that we would want talk to Travis before we ever proposed anything. And so we would purchase the properties and then then work with them."
Stephanie: "What do you say to your critics who believe Travis Air Force Base deserved an explanation back when you first started acquiring land?"
Jan: "If Travis had contacted us and asked for an explanation, we would have absolutely worked with them and the broader defense community to provide that."
Stephanie: "What do you say to those people who are still concerned there may be a tie to a foreign adversary with this project?"
Jan: "I would say that we have received complete scrutiny from multiple federal agencies, and they have all of the information they need to make sure that there isn't any."
Stephanie: "Has that investigation concluded?"
Jan: "I can't comment on that any further."
Stephanie: "But you've provided everything?"
Jan: "We provided everything a long time ago."
Stephanie: "So do you plan to hear from them again?"
Jan: "I... I don't expect to hear from them, honestly. I think they have everything they need to make sure that they're that there is no foreign involvement."
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