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About Us

We are a group of concerned residents, leaders, and organizations who came together to form Solano Together, a coalition that envisions a better future for our region that focuses development into existing cities and strengthens our agricultural industry.

Our work is driven by an alternative vision for Solano County in the face of Flannery Associates’ claims about California Forever’s benefits—our vision is guided by local voices and perspectives.

 

As a science and fact-based coalition, Solano Together will provide the public, voters, and decision-makers with accurate information on the impacts of California Forever and unite around a shared vision for the future.

Photo: Paige Green

Vision

Solano Together envisions a future where the County's diversity in age, race and ethnicity, cultural background, and industry is celebrated and embraced through investment in city-centered growth and healthy communities, responsible and transparent decision-making, and long-term protection and stewardship of Solano’s natural and working lands that play an irreplaceable role in water and food security, climate resilience, and the vitality of precious ecosystems.

Mission

Solano Together's mission is to engage, educate, and activate Solano residents and organizations by uniting diverse interests around core values, providing accurate and up-to-date information about the impacts of Flannery Associates' proposed California Forever project, and advocating for development that supports the County’s long-term health and vibrancy through city-centered growth and protection of working lands and open spaces.

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  • Overview
    California Forever is presenting its plans to build a “new community” in eastern Solano County to the public and asking voters to approve substantial changes to how Solano County grows and uses the land. The Solano Together coalition created this FAQ resource to make sure Solano voters and general members of the public have accurate information regarding the proposed California Forever project and associated ballot initiative.
  • What is California Forever's ballot initiative?
    California Forever’s initiative, which they’re calling the East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative, will appear on the November 2024 ballot before Solano County voters, assuming they are able to get enough valid signatures before the deadline. Their initiative seeks to modify the land use designation of 17,500 acres of agricultural land in eastern Solano County to a “New Community” designation that would allow for the development of up to 400,000 new residents and up to 90 million square feet of non-residential development (1). Project proponents are required to get voter approval because this project is in conflict with the County’s General Plan and the County’s Orderly Growth Ordinance, which was first enacted in 1980 to limit sprawl development of agricultural lands and open spaces and direct growth into existing cities (2). Since the first public announcement of their ballot initiative on January 17, California Forever has resubmitted language twice as a response to criticism of their handling of Travis Airforce Base, corrections in acreage, and legal clarifications about the use of a Developments Agreement and compliance with CEQA (3). Voters should be clear on what they are voting on—the rezoning of agricultural land for a new city in a remote area of Solano County, a decision that will fundamentally change the landscape and way of life in the region.
  • But what about the guarantees? Aren’t we voting for them as well?
    No, not directly. While the measure identifies “ten voter guarantees” that the project proponents have promised to provide once residential and commercial development begins, county counsel clarifies that “rights to develop the New Community and obligations for voter guarantees would not vest until a Development Agreement is executed between the project applicant and the County” (4). Without any mechanism to hold California Forever accountable, these “guarantees” are largely empty promises until a Development Agreement is in place. Under California law, a ballot measure cannot legally obligate the County to agree to specific provisions in a Development Agreement, which must be negotiated independently between the developer and the local governing body (5). The title and summary further detail that any community benefits negotiated through a Development Agreement would only be binding if the new city remained unincorporated (6). If California Forever chose to incorporate as a city, all of those benefits could disappear (7).
  • If California Forever’s initiative passes in November, what happens next?
    If the ballot initiative passes, there would still be a long and challenging road ahead for the California Forever project to become a reality. If passed, Flannery Associates would then begin negotiations with the County for a Development Agreement (DA), while also seeking numerous approvals from state and federal regulatory agencies, conducting studies in collaboration with public agencies, securing funding for infrastructure projects, and ultimately, going to LAFCO (the Local Agency Formation Committee) for approval of a new city. Complex projects of this scale often take 10-15 years to gain necessary approvals, design and build extensive new infrastructure, and complete CEQA review (8). This project will be especially challenging considering its impact on state water resources and federally protected species.
  • As a Solano County resident, why should I care about what happens in Eastern Solano County?
    While many Solano residents may assume that a new project located miles away would have no impact on their lives, that is far from the truth. If this proposed “new community” were to move forward, it would require significant investment in transportation and water infrastructure, which would have to be carried out in partnership with Solano County agencies. While California Forever sponsors say they will “pay their fair share,” the remaining costs will have to be paid by County agencies or other public entities, which are funded through tax dollars (9). To fund these new projects, County agencies will either have to raise taxes and utility bills or re-allocate funds away from existing needs around the County to support these new projects. This highlights the direct link between sprawl development and urban blight when both public and private resources are directed away from existing cities and towards costly new developments. Constructing a community of market-rate homes could draw higher-income residents away from existing cities—leaving Solano’s seven cities to figure out how to provide essential services with dwindling tax revenue. This cycle can lead to neglected infrastructure, reduced support for local services, and an overall decline in the socio-economic health of the region (10).
  • How will the California Forever development impact traffic in Solano County?
    California Forever’s sprawl project would result in significant traffic issues due to its distance from existing jobs and amenities and lack of connections to transit. This would effectively double the number of cars on Solano’s roads and highways (i.e. longer commutes, more pollution impacts on residents, and higher infrastructure maintenance costs). Over two-thirds (67%) of Solano residents work outside the County, with over 11,000 residents commuting to San Francisco alone, and similarly, over 68,000 people are employed in Solano but live outside the County (11). In short, the Bay Area is an interconnected region and building a new city of 400,000 residents in a place that lacks transit connections will only force those new residents to drive, which will increase traffic, especially on Highways 12, 113, and I-80, and local pollution, while contributing to harmful greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
  • How will California Forever impact water resources?
    A new city would burden already scarce water resources and put supply for existing residents at risk. Flannery Associates’ has discussed pulling water from the Solano Subbasin, which was overdrafted in the 1960s. Using this groundwater resource to support a new city could put significant strain on the Subbasin, resulting in depletion, subsidence, and severe water security issues (12). Using more water from the Sacramento River and its tributaries is also highly problematic when considering that California’s surface water supplies are already oversubscribed by 500%, meaning that water rights claims are five times greater than the amount of water that actually exists (13). The Solano County Water Agency has already voted to discontinue conversations with California Forever, and the continued lack of information on how this project will get enough water to support a population the size of Oakland suggests that project proponents still have no plan for achieving sufficient water resources without significant harm to the communities, economies, and ecosystems that rely on the region’s limited water resources.
  • Why is this land important to protect?
    While project proponents consistently portray their land as vacant and unproductive, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The 17,500 acres slated for development is currently managed using regenerative farming practices that grow food and fiber with no irrigation while also storing carbon, providing vital habitat and nutrients to the Delta, and allowing for water permeability and groundwater recharge (14). The carbon stored in this land is equivalent to one year of driving 73,804 passenger vehicles (15) – this natural carbon storage would be lost if California Forever was to move forward. Additionally, nearly 7,000 acres of the land is vernal pool habitat, which represents some of the last thriving ecosystems of this type as over 90% of California’s vernal pools have already been lost to development (16). These lands are also home to federally protected endangered species such as the California Tiger Salamander, Swainson’s Hawk, and Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp that are vitally important to the health of local ecosystems.
  • Would this project bring new high-paying jobs to Solano residents? Will Travis Air Force Base be protected?
    Not necessarily. As discussed above, California Forever’s job guarantees are non-binding until vested in a DA. But even assuming that the promises in the initiative are included in subsequent agreements, under their definition of job creation, a remote worker that moves to the new community with an existing job would count as a “job created” (17). This begs the question of how Solano residents will benefit from any jobs created, and how Flannery Associates will be held accountable if and when the city decides to incorporate – nullifying the DA. While the promises for new jobs come with myriad questions, one thing is clear – development of this new city will jeopardize the County’s largest employer, Travis Air Force Base (18). Even with changes to the buffer zone, building a new city of 400,000 residents in close proximity to an active base, its training facilities, and its flight paths, threatens the military mission and long-term viability of the Base’s operations (19).
  • Will California Forever provide affordable housing?
    California Forever’s initiative does not include any inclusion of below market rate (BMR) housing. They claim their housing is “affordable by design,” but as the developer, they can set prices however they choose. Additionally, greenfield developments like this must build completely new infrastructure (water and sewer, energy transmissions, roads, transit, schools, etc). Those costs are not typically taken on by the developer, instead, they are passed onto future renters and homeowners in the form of special assessments through Mellos Roos districts. On average, residents of sprawling communities pay an additional $2,568 due to the cost of services and infrastructure, with even greater costs being incurred by the community at large (20). With the number of assessments and fees required to fund the infrastructure and services needed for this project, it is unlikely that this new community will be affordable to most Solano County residents.
  • FAQ Sources
    East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative (submitted to Solano County registrar of voters on February 14, 2024). Solano County General Plan, Ordinance 2008-01 California Forever, a billionaire-backed campaign for a new Solano County city, is off to a bumpy start. Again, Janie Har, Press Democrat Rezoning of 17,500 Acres of Land in East Solano County to Allow the Development of a New Community, Solano County Counsel, Retrieved from Registrar of Voters Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. City of Moreno Valley, 26 Cal. App. 5th 689 (2018) Rezoning of 17,500 Acres of Land in East Solano County to Allow the Development of a New Community, Solano County Counsel, Retrieved from Registrar of Voters Tech-billionaire promises for a new city, from roads to water, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars — if they’re binding, L. Sumagaysay and B. Christopher, CalMatters Tech-billionaire promises for a new city, from roads to water, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars — if they’re binding, L. Sumagaysay and B. Christopher, CalMatters ‘California Forever’ CEO defends controversial plan to build new Solano County city, SF Chronicle Fresno’s urban sprawl policies linked to decades of poverty, blight in new study, Gregory Weaver, Fresnoland On the Map, US Census Bureau, 2021 data for All Workers Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan C-WIN: Coming Clean: State Water Resources Control Board Finally Acknowledges “Paper Water”, Press release from the California Water Impact Network, Retrieved from Maven’s Notebook Report Generated by Bay Area Greenprint (analysis of California Forever development footprint as of 2/14/24) Wheat Fields or Walkable City for Solano Open Space?, Aleta George, Knee Deep Times Vernal Pools, US EPA California’s ‘utopia’ plan to offer $400M in homebuying aid for new residents, David Sjostedt, The San Francisco Standard Defense Related Industries (TAFB), Retrieved from website of the Solano Economic Development Corporation Reps. Thompson and Garamendi Discuss California Forever, Uploaded by Congressman Mike Thompson, Retrieved from Youtube Analysis of Public Policies that Unintentionally Encourage and Subsidize Urban Sprawl, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Fundamental Values of the Coalition:

Organizations

The coalition also includes over 100 Solano County residents and welcomes new individuals and member organizations that are aligned with our mission and values. 

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