A bubble for the elite

The changes that life makes.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
05 September 2023 Tuesday 11:15
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A bubble for the elite

The changes that life makes. Jan Sramek, known as the golden boy of finance, moved a decade ago. He was looking for new horizons in the world of technology.

During fishing trips, he fell in love with the territory of the Sacramento Delta, in Solano County, at the eastern end of San Francisco Bay. Since buying a house didn't seem like much to him, he decided to found a city in that rural corner. His vision, as a European immigrant, was of a kind of Zurich, a city for strolling.

It all started in 2017. He created a company called Flannery Associates, attracted Silicon Valley millionaires with the bold idea and used the money to buy land. Among others, they include the philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs; the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, or the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. The first check was received from Patrick Collison, chief executive of Stripe, a fast payments platform.

The project was kept secret until a few days ago, without really knowing who was behind the company that was buying land, when Sramek, 36, revealed the website California forever. On the page, it specifies the new version of the utopia of happy Arcadia, a bubble isolated from the bustle of the world, for which they have already acquired 202 square kilometers of land, according to the information, for which they have invested 900 million dollars. This has made him the most important landowner in the United States. In fact, it is certain that residents of Collinsville, which was partly destroyed by fire in 2014, have already started to leave.

As an illustration, San Francisco is 121 km2.

The website states that the alma mater of the idea once lived "in the most passable, livable and sustainable towns and cities in the world". Based on the experience, he is committed to “a new community with well-paid local jobs, solar farms, open spaces, good schools, with public safety, no homeless people and efficient service infrastructures for water, transportation and protection of forest fires".

Sramek was best known for what he had left behind. He made headlines in 2011 when he left investment bank Goldman Sachs at a time when he was being described as a child prodigy. His ability is contrasted by the ability to convince a string of investors for this other adventure which, apparently, was impossible.

And now he has begun the task of meeting with key political leaders, who, like the rest, have spent years trying to figure out who was pulling the strings at Flannery Associates. He must convince them of the viability of the project so that they endorse and support it.

The website claims that, in a survey of county residents, they said they were in favor. But building something similar to a city goes further and requires voting on urban land use, a protection established in 1984.

The mayors of the area describe the project as a "city for the elite". They distrust the intentions. "I can't imagine that the supervisors would allow something like this," Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell told The New York Times (secret revealer). "I am surprised that such intelligent people waste time and money on this effort," he added.