Sierra Club calls California Forever's plan for new Solano Co. city a 'hostile takeover'

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Sierra Club calls plan for new Solano Co. city a 'hostile takeover'
A California chapter of the Sierra Club publicly opposed California Forever's plan to build a new city in Solano County.

SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A California chapter of the Sierra Club publicly opposed the billionaire-backed company that's proposing to build a new city in Solano County. The criticism is revealing new details about the company's proposed land swap near Travis Air Force Base.

During a press conference Tuesday, the Sierra Club accused California Forever of endangering Travis Air Force Base by ignoring years of smart-growth planning. But, the company's CEO Jan Sramek defends his mission and says the criticism is unfounded.

Princess Washington, the chair of the Solano Sierra Club and current Mayor Pro-tem of Suisun City, says the secretive billion-dollar land acquisition is nothing short of a 'hostile takeover' - criticizing any development on agricultural land conflicts with an existing county initiative.

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"Over the past 30 years, the Bay Area has lost more than 217,000 acres of ag land to development," said Washington. "This is land we cannot get back once it's developed."

Joe Feller, who's part of the Solano Sierra Club executive team, argues the new city would threaten the county's food supply.

"Losing prime ag land means were losing the ability to feed ourselves," said Feller. "But also losing the ability to protect all sorts of species. It's dangerous on a number of levels."

Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy raised concerns about the encroachment on Travis Air Force Base.

"The threat to Travis Air Force Base, that's a big fat no!" Moy said addressing a crowd of activists. "We need to protect Travis."

City officials said they've asked California Forever why the land immediately surrounding Travis Air Force Base wasn't available to be relinquished.

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"What's your response to that?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"I mean I think they should wait for the overall plans before anyone is making up an opinion about the project which is what most of the elected officials in the area are doing," said Sramek.

Sramek told ABC7 News he's very confident the land acquired around Travis will be compatible with the county and support the operations of the base. He says he will propose some of those plans after the New Year, which will include use for solar farms.

California Forever recently learned that certain parcels northeast of Travis Air Force Base that they acquired were identified as targets for the Dept. of Defense to acquire for their environmental protection program. The Solano Sierra Club says they're concerned because the state's biodiversity is threatened by loss of habitat in this area.

Sramek told ABC7 News the Department of Defense did not request for those specific parcels back.

"We acquired them from third-party land owners... We didn't even learn that this was a priority for them from the DOD, we actually learned about it independently by talking to people in the community," said Sramek.

According to Sramek, the same parcels that were identified as targets for the DOD are now being offered to the Solano County Water Agency in a proposed land swap.

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California Forever is offering to exchange around 1,400 acres of pasture land for around 1,500 acres of their land that Sramek says has the highest habitat values.

But, Mayor Moy says there's more to the story.

"In this land swap, they're trying to pass off a piece of land to the Solano County Water Agency that's now under investigation by the state and by other environmental groups," Moy said. "That could come with fines up to $20 million."

"What's your response to that?" Sierra asked Sramek.

"That's categorically false and I would ask her to present the evidence of that," Sramek said. "Because that is absolutely not true."

Moy says the Solano County Water Agency is scheduled to discuss whether to negotiate with California Forever in mid-December. But Sramek says even if they don't, he's confident his acquisitions will have access to enough water to support a city of tens of thousands of people.

California Forever will be opening offices in Vallejo and Vacaville on Thursday so people can come in, speak with staff, and get questions answered, Sramek told ABC7 News.

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