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Ranchers decry ‘arrogant’ Silicon Valley billionaires buying up land for ‘fantasy’ city near San Francisco: ‘We are now totally surrounded’

Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Silicon Valley tech elites have their reasons for wanting to build a new city near San Francisco. For starters, they’re fed up with the crime, drug markets, and homeless encampments—not to mention the sky-high housing costs and flight of companies from downtown.

With that in mind, a group of them have spent nearly $1 billion buying up land in Solano County, about 60 miles outside San Francisco. Their idea is to build a utopian city with new homes, orchards, a solar-energy farm, and plenty of parks and open space.

Less thrilled about the idea are Jeanne McCormack and Al Medvitz, owners of the 125-year-old, 3,700-acre McCormack Ranch, which is now surrounded—aside from a stretch facing the Sacramento River—by property bought for the planned city. McCormack is baffled by the project and its billionaire backers.

“They are so arrogant it’s amazing,” McCormack told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They know what they are going to do but they don’t even know anyone who lives here?”

A farming community, she notes, should be big enough to support auxiliary businesses—repair shops, feed stores, slaughterhouses—and enable farmers to occasionally share resources and lease land to one another. Instead she’s seen one neighbor after another sell their property.

“We have new issues because we have to deal with neighbors who have no experience or expertise in agriculture,” said McCormack, whose ranch includes wheat, alfalfa, grape vineyards and more 1,800 sheep.

“Many of the farmers in the area lease foraging land from each other,” former West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon told the paper. “Flannery has canceled many of these foraging leases.”

It has also sued property owners in the area for allegedly colluding to drive up prices, ranchers say.

The land buyer giving McCormack and Medvitz so much angst is Flannery Associates, an affiliate of California Forever, an umbrella company that has spent more than $800 million on buying land in the eastern part of the county. Investors in California Forever include LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Stripe cofounders John and Patrick Collison, and venture capitalists Michael Moritz, Marc Andreessen, and Chris Dixon, among others.

The backers “care deeply about the future of Solano County and California and believe their best days are ahead,” Flannery spokesman Brian Brokaw told the Chronicle. “We are proud to partner on a project that aims to deliver access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, open space, and a healthy environment to residents of Solano County.”

Medvitz said the area’s farming families formed a “profound bonding for the land” over generations. But the property deals linked to the project have created divisions within the community.

“With this new proposal and the way the new people are behaving,” he told the Chronicle, “all of that is going to be lost. For a fantasy.”

“If they want a new city,” he added, “San Jose is ripe. Fix what’s there.”

He noted, “We have had lots of people come out here and look at the river and say, ‘You ought to develop this.’ You have to say, ‘Wait a minute—it already is developed. It’s highly developed land. It’s highly developed for a different purpose.’”

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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