SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The investment firm that's bought nearly $1 billion worth of Solano County farmland to create a utopian city was faced with a slew of questions from Congressional leaders about the security of Travis Air Force Base.
After years of secrecy, the CEO of the billionaire-backed investment firm Flannery Associates met one-on-one with Rep. John Garamendi to discuss his vision for Solano County's future.
"It was a continuation of my disappointment," Rep. Garamendi (D-Solano County) said. "It's very, very clear that they do not have a plan for the 55,000 acres."
"Can you rule out any threat to national security?" the ABC7 I-Team's Stephanie Sierra asked.
"I believe there is a serious threat to national security as long as this organization will not commit to protecting Travis Air Force Base with the existing zoning and development requirements," Rep. Garamendi said. "I remain very, very concerned."
According to Flannery's parent company California Forever, the new city would be in eastern Solano County. The group is focused on affordable housing, clean energy, and sustainable infrastructure.
After meeting with the firm, Garamendi says he's concerned their plans would compromise the security of the base.
"It's very, very clear that they intend to go to an initiative to change the zoning requirements for that entire 55,000 acres. In doing so, they may very well diminish or eliminate the protections that Travis Air Force Base presently has. So I remain very, very concerned," Garamendi told the I-Team.
"Did they specify to you specific plans they wanted to do with that land surrounding the base, why they bought it in the first place?" Sierra asked.
"No, they did not. No specific development plans were given to us, and I don't believe they have any specific development plans. It's a fairytale," Garamendi said.
In a statement shared with the I-Team on behalf of Flannery, the firm says, "We are grateful to Rep. Garamendi for meeting with us last week, and had a very productive conversation. As we told the congressman: any project that we propose in Eastern Solano County, which would be subject to voter approval, would protect and support Travis Air Force Base - including compliance with requirements enacted by the county for the Travis Reserve Area."
The firm added any new project will need to be approved by the voters.
"This is why we are actively engaging the community, its elected leaders, as well as Travis Air Force Base to develop a shared vision for the county's future."
Flannery acquired most of the land around the base by 2020. Congressman Mike Thompson raised this question - if the intent was to build a city, why was the land around the base prioritized years ago.
"I asked them about that because their city plans or their new city plans are a considerable distance from some of the properties that they were purchasing," Rep. Thompson said. "And they had, I guess, an explanation for why they bought some of those properties. And it ranged from anywhere from housing that they want to be able to build to an area that maybe suitable for housing."
Flannery told the I-Team there are currently no plans to build any homes or other conflicting developments within one mile of Travis.
But both Congressmen say it's still unclear what that land would be used for - especially given it's in an area that's already restricted.
Supervisor Mitch Mashburn represents the area.
"It's all zoned agriculture and now it has an overlay that makes it even more restrictive with regard to agriculture and any industry that can be put in there related to that," said Mashburn, representing District 5. "So I do not see any investment purpose in that."
Solano County implemented what's called the "Travis Reserve Overlay" last year -- which added more restrictions for any development near the base.
In a June 2023 email obtained by the I-Team, Flannery expressed interest in using some of the parcels near Travis for olive orchards but didn't specify details. According to the email the firm "is in discussions with olive growers regarding leases under which they would plant olive orchards on a substantial portion of Flannery's holdings. The exact locations are to be determined, but would likely include some of the acreage around Travis AFB."
In another email reviewed by the I-Team, the county sent over the necessary paperwork for permitting and agricultural operations.
Since then, Solano County Administrator Bill Emlen says there has been no permits pulled to signal any change of land use or new development near the base- including any progress with the development of olive orchards.
Flannery told the I-Team Tuesday night, "We are interested in potentially growing olive orchards there, or other uses. We are starting a dialogue with Travis about how to use that property in a way that is compatible with Travis."
Garamendi says he also asked the firm questions about the lack of infrastructure in eastern Solano County and the price tag that will come with it.
"How are you going to build the infrastructure, the streets, the water, the sewers, and what are you going to do about the two state highways that are very narrow, two lane roads right now?" Garamendi says he asked the firm. "They said, oh, we'll pay our fair share...Well, basically, they told me they're going to load up existing taxpayers to help pay for this new city."
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