San Francisco’s tech elite is increasingly dissatisfied with the city, and some heavyweights are investing heavily in building a new settlement 60 miles away.

Including venture capitalist Michael Moritz, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist Marc Anderson Andreessen and Chris Dixon, investor Nat Friedman, and Stripe co-founders John and Patrick Collison have invested in $800 million to buy land in Solano County. Primarily the rural area between San Francisco and Sacramento. According to a poll sent to residents, the development will include “tens of thousands of new homes, a massive solar farm, an orchard with more than a million new trees, and more than 10,000 acres of new parks and open parks.” space”. According to news site SFGate, which saw the poll, the city will be “a college town” and will be entirely privately funded.

This idyllic vision stands in stark contrast to recent comments about San Francisco by some of the group’s supporters, portraying the city as a den of crime, drugs and the homeless.

Moritz was chairman of the committee until last month Sequoia CapitalLaments city’s drug problem, housing costs, condemns ‘open air drug markets and homeless encampments’ Financial Times editorial It also took aim at the city’s “deserted downtown; flights from midsize and large businesses and conventions; commercial office vacancy rates among the highest of any large U.S. city,” and “housing costs that are overwhelming for everyone but the rich and poor.” It’s prohibitively expensive for anyone.”

Friedman, a supporter of the pro-development group YIMBY California, also tweeted about crime in San Francisco, including burglaries that prompted him to move to the suburbs.

“We moved from San Francisco to Menlo Park a year ago after two meth addicts broke into our house while we were home and robbed us,” Friedman said. wrote In April, he added: “We don’t want to leave San Francisco – we love it there – but we have a young child and it seems irresponsible to stay in a place where drug addicts burglary and are called ‘break and enter’ ’” (The city saw 7,300 burglaries last year and about 6,050 in 2021, according to the police department.)

Other prominent business leaders lamented the fall of downtown San Francisco, with the CEO of Park Hotels & Resorts stopping payments to two downtown hotels and predicting a “recovery” that would take time 7 years. But unlike most CEOs, and indeed most Americans, supporters of new cities rarely have the ability to relinquish their positions and start over.

In trying to build a new settlement entirely, the tech tycoons are following a tradition started nearly a century ago by other American industrialists who built company towns around their factories and utopians who built remote communities based on their social beliefs. It’s also a declaration of disengagement for those dissatisfied with the city’s politics, resources, or other amenities: rather than try to change it, give up and start living your own life.

my town, my rules

As a prime example, Tesla CEO and prominent California critic Elon MuskThe company that moved its corporate headquarters to Austin two years ago is reportedly trying to build a new town east of the city. Entities linked to Musk bought 3,500 acres of land in Bastrop County, Texas, with the ultimate goal of allowing Musk to “make some regulations” and build below-market-level cars for Tesla and SpaceX employees. housing. wall street journal report.

Onetime Musk collaborator Peter Thiel has backed similar city-building efforts with seed funding. Ocean Home Research Institute, a non-profit organization that aims to create floating libertarian ocean colonies around the world.Over the past decade, the institute has committed to building a platform city A floating island off the coast of San Francisco and French Polynesia.Neither of these projects came to fruition, but the institute’s current pipeline Ideas include floating hotels, a series of interconnected hotels unfettered by government islandsand “the first ocean-going city-state designed by man,” which it promises to create within a decade.

City-building isn’t limited to tech-slanting either. Retail executive Les Wexner, owner of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, bought most of New Albany, Ohio, in the 1980s. He’s since turned this outer Columbus suburb into a master-planned oasis of cookie-cutter Georgian homes with a median sale price of $900,000, three times that of neighboring cities, parks, hospitals and an annual equestrian ride. The acting is still top notch. wexner name.Walton family finances infrastructure at Walmart headquarters Bentonville, Arkansas. Celebration in suburban Orlando was built entirely by The Walt Disney Company in the 1990s under a special agreement with the state. Florida.

But, as the current battle between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has shown, privatizing cities can have serious downsides. Chief among these is that these towns often have their own privatized governments, not accountable to local communities or even elected officials in the state in which the city is located. By separating themselves from their surroundings, these towns also increased inequality, creating enclaves of the wealthy while reducing the tax base of surrounding areas.

Then there is the process of starting the city. Current residents of Solano County expressed shock at the intense secrecy surrounding the purchase of 52,000 acres of land in the rural area surrounding the Air Force base, much of it including farms and a two-lane road.

“Rich people have goals,” said Duane Kromm, a former Solano County supervisor. Tell this san francisco chronicle. “It’s clear they’re not sensitive to the local community,” he said of the investors, adding, “The damage they’ve done to family farms, to people they’ve known for generations is unbelievable.”

A spokesman representing technologists buying properties in Solano County did not directly answer questions about what lessons people have learned building new cities, but pledged in a statement to work with existing residents.

Flannery spokesman Brian Brokaw said, “We are honored to partner on a project that will provide Solano County residents with good-paying jobs, affordable housing, clean energy , sustainable infrastructure, open space and a healthy environment,” said investment group Associates. “We are excited to begin working with residents and elected officials, as well as Travis Air Force Base, to make this happen. Engagement with community leaders will begin this week, and we look forward to sharing more information soon.”

Investors face an uphill battle in getting the rezoning and voter approval they need to make their utopia a reality. This spring, Flannery sued a group of local homeowners, accusing them of conspiring to inflate land prices; some of them have since settled, while others have filed to dismiss the lawsuit. Still, if anyone knows how to use local government to their advantage, it’s these people.

“You’re looking at a group of very, very smart investors,” said Matt Regan, senior vice president of the Bay Area Council, a business group. Tell chronicle. “If they’re serious about the cause, I wouldn’t bet against it.”


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