Recent reports have unveiled strange information about a nearly $1 billion investment in land purchases by a secretive company close to a California Air Force base, sparking concerns regarding national security.
A Big Purchase
Since 2018, a group named “Flannery Associates” has dedicated over $800 million to acquire roughly 54,000 acres of agriculture-zoned land encompassing the Travis Air Force base in Solano County, California.
Early speculation has suggested Chinese involvement in these acquisitions and stirred up fear due to China’s increasing interest in American farmland.
However, legal representatives for Flannery Associates have asserted that the group is under the control of U.S. citizens, with the majority (97%) of its funding originating from U.S.-based investors.
8 Months and No Answers?
Despite eight months of investigation, federal officials have been unable to confirm or deny these claims, leaving the question of the company’s backers unanswered.
Silicon Valley Supporters
Recent stories from The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle disclose that Flannery Associates comprises a consortium of wealthy investors from Silicon Valley.
A New California City
It appears that Flannery Associates’s grand vision is to develop a new Californian city “from scratch” in the northeast of San Francisco. According to the reports, the plan revolves around establishing an urban center tailored to the demands of the tech industry.
Escaping the Bay Area
The aim is to create an environment conducive to innovation and economic growth, potentially mitigating challenges tied to congestion, housing shortages, and the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
As detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle, local communities, and government officials have greeted these land acquisitions with mixed feelings.
Democratic California Representative John Garamendi says the developments around Travis Air Force Base are a critical national security concern.
Potential Security Threat?
Garamendi also raised questions about the potential implications of Flannery Associates’ purchase of land surrounding all three sides of the base and said, “The fact they chose to buy all three sides of the Travis Air Force Base even raises immediate questions about national security.”
A Local Vote
Flannery Associates plans to employ the state’s initiative system to realize their goal, requiring Solano County residents to vote on the proposal.
Garamendi also expressed concerns that this approach might bypass local safeguards put in place for Travis Air Force Base.
The Base at Risk
Garamendi pointed out that the area is heavily constrained by restrictions meant to prevent activities that could harm the Air Force base.
He says that the ongoing investigation by the Air Force’s Foreign Investment Risk Review office is crucial due to Flannery Associates possibly having connections to foreign adversaries.
Fear for Farmers
It also seems that acquiring the land has created tension between Flannery Associates and farmers in the region.
On the relationship between the company and local farmers, Garamendi said, “Please understand that this group spent five years secretly and in my estimation, using strong-arm techniques that would best be associated with monsters to acquire the land.”
The situation has been further complicated by a lawsuit filed by Flannery Associates against farmers in the region.
While no California laws compelled the farmers to sell, both parties eventually agreed to a higher price for the land than originally estimated.
Farmers Financial Strain
Flannery Associates has now launched a $510 million lawsuit against these families, accusing them of conspiring to inflate the land’s value.
This legal action has placed financial strain on the affected families, with some unable to afford legal representation.
Thoughts on the Suit
Garamendi also gave his thoughts on the suit and said, “It’s a suit designed to force the farmers to lawyer up, spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyering and maybe at the end of the day, bankrupt themselves.”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.