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VALLEJO – Vallejo city officials warned in a draft letter to the county’s Board of Supervisors that the billionaire-backed proposal to build a new city in eastern Solano County could hurt the city’s ability to hire municipal staff, slow economic development and negatively impact residents’ property values.

At the Vallejo City Council meeting on Tuesday, Deputy City Manager Gillian Haen, who is filling in for City Manager Andrew Murray while he is on vacation, said she has been working with city department heads to develop an overview of the potential impacts of the proposed development on the city.

“California Forever could have a major impact if they plan to use city infrastructure or city water,” Haen said. “They are proposing a potential loss of 400,000 residents and 15,000 jobs, which could cannibalize jobs that would have otherwise been lost here in the city of Vallejo. We are planning to redevelop Mare Island, particularly the waterfront and downtown, and these impacts to those areas could be very detrimental to our city’s economic development, growth and revenue in the future.”

On 25 June, the district board voted in favour of drawing up a report to California Forever’s East Solano Initiative, which, if approved, would rezone 17,500 acres of agricultural land for the construction of a new city between Fairfield and Rio Vista.

After the county register confirmed that California Forever the required number of signatures submitted To put the initiative on the ballot, the supervisors had three options: approve the initiative in its current form, put it on the ballot and leave it to voters to approve, or direct county staff to submit a report on the impact of the initiative within 30 days.

Once that report is completed, the county has 10 days to approve the initiative without changes or put it before voters.

The state law provides for several Questions to be examined in the reportincluding impacts on agricultural and fallow lands, as well as impacts on finances, infrastructure and transportation. The law also allows supervisors to request specific areas of study. Supervisors Erin Hannigan and Wanda Williams both requested that the report consider impacts on existing towns in the county.

Haen said that while the traffic and water impacts need to be studied and could result in significant consequences for the city, the majority of the impacts highlighted by city experts are related to financial and economic development concerns.

Haen said that as a disadvantaged city, Vallejo will bear the brunt of the negative impacts and is less likely to enjoy the benefits touted by the developers of the planned city.

“The project could definitely weaken the real estate market in Vallejo as it creates a huge supply of housing in our area,” Haen said. She added that declining property values ​​would negatively impact property tax revenues and sales tax could also decline as residents are drawn to the new city for shopping.

Haen also noted that developers are planning 15,000 jobs and over 10,000 housing units on Mare Island, but the project could face even more delays due to economic conditions that could arise from the California Forever proposal.

California Forever’s East Solano initiative calls for a commitment to invest a total of $200 million in the downtowns of the seven existing cities in Solano County for every 50,000 residents who move to the proposed city. California Forever CEO Jan Sramek estimates it will take 15 years for the new city to reach a population of 50,000.

The initiative provides for the capital to be invested in the seven cities in proportion to their share of the district’s population.

The initiative also provides $400 million for the construction of affordable housing, as well as a down payment for county residents or project participants who want to purchase a home in the new city.

The disbursement of the Affordable Housing Grants and Downtown Grants is tied to occupancy rates in the new city, and the grant amounts are renewed each time the new city reaches a population milestone of 50,000 residents until the city reaches its full population of 400,000.

Haen also said that portions of the land purchased by California Forever are designated as habitat conservation areas, which can be preserved through conservation agreements to offset habitat loss associated with a development project. The reduction in the availability of habitat conservation areas caused by the East Solano plan could make it more difficult for development projects in Vallejo and other parts of the county to make the necessary offsets.

The City of Vallejo water system serves several communities in the region, including the city of American Canyon and Travis Air Force Base. Haen said any additional strain on that system would certainly impact the City of Vallejo as well.

In a recent Press releaseCalifornia Forever officials said existing water rights and current water use on the 60,000 acres the company owns are already enough to serve 100,000 residents. The company plans to ensure supply for the remaining 300,000 residents through water purchases that do not displace agricultural uses, Bronson Johnson, California Forever’s director of infrastructure and sustainability, said in a recent interview with the Vallejo Sun.

The initiative requires the company to conduct an environmental review of the project under California Environmental Quality Act standards. That review will include a water assessment detailing how the developers will supply water to the project, but that report would only be produced if the project is approved.

The city’s statement also included concerns about the ability of the five-member Board of Supervisors to govern an unincorporated town that will nearly double the county’s population. Pointing to other successful unincorporated towns, Sramek plans to raise taxes for the new municipality through Community Facilities Districts created under the state’s Mello-Roos Act.

Sramek said the initiative includes a plan to reimburse the county for initial administrative costs associated with the project, arguing that the increased property tax revenue would benefit the entire county.

Vice Mayor Mina Lorea-Diaz and Council Member Cristina Arriola said the list of concerns raised by staff in the draft statement covers the issues they had written in their notes preparing for the meeting. The council directed staff to complete the comments and provide a final draft of the document to each council member for review and signing.

According to City Attorney Veronica Nebb, the county asked the city to submit comments on the impacts by July 11 so they can be included in the county’s report to the Board of Supervisors at the July 23 meeting.

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