Billionaires want to build a new city in rural California

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. secretive / ˈsi krɪ tɪv / (adj.) – hiding feelings, thoughts, and actions from other people

    He’s a secretive guy. He rarely shares about his life.

  2. spearhead / ˈspɪərˌhɛd / (v.) – to lead an organization, group, or project

    A new team leader will spearhead the project.

  3. congest / kənˈdʒɛst / (v.) – to make something blocked or crowded causing problems or difficulties

    Thousands of vehicles congest the highway during rush hours.

  4. guise / gaɪz / (n.) – the false appearance of something, particularly when hiding the truth or misleading people

    He was caught stealing money from the company in the guise of fund-raising projects.

  5. windfall / ˈwɪndˌfɔl / (n.) – an unexpected amount of money that someone receives as a present, award, prize, etc.

    Someone sent a windfall to the children’s hospital that needs funds.


Read the text below.

Silicon Valley billionaires behind a secretive $800 million land-buying spree in Northern California have finally released some details about their plans for a new green city, but they still must win over skeptical voters and local leaders.

After years of ducking scrutiny, Jan Sramek, the former Goldman Sachs trader spearheading the effort, launched a website about “California Forever.” The site billed the project as “a chance for a new community, good-paying local jobs, solar farms, and open space” in Solano, a rural county between San Francisco and Sacramento that is now home to 450,000 people.

But to build anything resembling a city on what is now farmland, the group must first convince Solano County voters to approve a ballot initiative to allow for urban uses on that land, a protection that has been in place since 1984. Local and federal officials still have questions about the group’s intentions.

California is in dire need of more housing, especially affordable homes for teachers, firefighters, service and hospitality workers. But cities and counties can’t figure out where to build as established neighborhoods argue against new homes that they say would congest their roads and spoil their quiet way of life.

Princess Washington, mayor pro tempore of Suisun City, is suspicious that the group’s real purpose is “to create a city for the elite” under the guise of more housing. 

Mayor Ron Kott suspects older people who make up half of the city’s 10,000 residents won’t appreciate the added congestion and noise, but others might like the improved medical care, nightlife and shopping that a sophisticated city nearby might bring.

“If it’s done correctly, I think there’s a lot of opportunities for the county. Their tax revenue base will increase quite a bit. So there’s going to be a big windfall from that. Property values would probably go up around here as well even further. And so I think from those perspectives it’s good,” Kott said.

“But again, I think you’re giving up a quality of lifestyle that’s kind of unique to this area.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Jan Sramek launched a website that’s promoting the “California Forever” project as “a chance for a new community, good-paying local jobs, solar farms, and open space.” Why do you think some voters and local leaders are skeptical or suspicious about it? Discuss.
  • What do you think people spearheading big projects should do to make people trust them (ex. engage the community, present regular updates and progress reports)? Do organizations in your country do these? What makes you say so? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you think it’s okay to give up the way of life in rural areas in exchange for urbanization and economic development? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • If your city is to undergo a major development, what places do you want to remain (ex. local farmers’ market, cycling path)? Why? Discuss.