Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Farmers Had What the Billionaires Wanted

 When Jan Sramek walked into the American Legion post in Rio Vista, California, for a town hall meeting last month, everyone in the room knew that he was really just there to get yelled at.

For six years a mysterious company called Flannery Associates, which Sramek controlled, had upended the town of 10,000 by spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy every farm in the area. Flannery made multimillionaires out of some owners and sparked feuds among others. It sued a group of holdouts who had refused its above-market offers, on the grounds that they were colluding for more.Now the truth was standing in front of them. 

And somehow it was weirder than the rumors.

*The truth was that Sramek wanted to build a city from the ground up, in an agricultural region whose defining feature was how little it had changed. The idea would have been treated as a joke if it weren’t backed by a group of Silicon Valley billionaires who included Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist; Reid Hoffman, an investor and co-founder of LinkedIn; and Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of the Emerson Collective and the widow of the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. They and others from the technology world had spent some $900 million on farmland in a demonstration of their dead seriousness about Sramek’s vision.

...Sramek’s plan was billed as a salve for San Francisco’s urban housing problems. But paving over ranches to build a city of 400,000 wasn’t the sort of idea you’d expect a group of farmers to be enthused about...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And the farmers sold out for the money. Anybody who comes from a farming and ranching background that sells out for the money has no business complaining about big companies, liberal views that come along with big business, or urban growth.