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California Forever founder announces planned clinics in bid to win over Solano County voters

Billionaires trying to win over Solano County voters in order to build new city
Billionaires trying to win over Solano County voters in order to build new city 04:15

California Forever, the group of Silicon Valley investors who want to create a brand-new city in rural Solano County, has raised a lot of suspicions among neighboring residents. But on Monday, they made a surprise philanthropic announcement.  

They will be sponsoring a group of medical clinics around the county, and many believe it is a way to build goodwill amongst the locals.

It was Meatball Monday at "Pizza A Go-Go" in the town of Rio Vista, and owner Robin Sibert said there had been a lot of questions from customers about what was going on across the street.

"Every single person coming in here today is asking me, 'what's going on right there?'" she said.  "And I say, 'I'm learning it exactly the same moment you're learning it.'"

California Forever is proposing the so-called "East Solano Plan" which would create a giant new planned community on agricultural land it purchased between Fairfield and Rio Vista. On Monday, founder Jan Sramek gathered the media to announce the company's sponsorship of a series of new primary and urgent care health facilities throughout Solano County, including in Rio Vista, a community that currently has no healthcare facility of any kind.  

Dr. Eshan Ghods, a NorthBay Health physician said all his Rio Vista patients have to drive to his office in Fairfield to get treatment.

"So, having something closer by, where they can get assistance with transportation to someplace more reasonable than 45 minutes away, is what's going to be provided here," said Dr. Ghods.

"To me, this clinic is a prime example of what's possible with the right capital and the right partnerships," Sramek told the crowd at the announcement.

But it was also a prime example of why CA Forever is having such a hard time gaining the trust of local citizens. The building they were standing in front of was empty and won't be open until sometime in 2025. And Robin said she never saw the signs on the window until that morning.

"I'm right across the street," she said, "And I didn't know that it was going to be a health center until today."

CA Forever has faced a lot of questions over its secrecy, uncertain water supply, and battles with local landowners. And some believe the offer of health care clinics is an effort to mend some fences.

"All those kind of things just created a lot of mistrust and suspicion and a lot of negative feelings," said Rio Vista Mayor Ron Kott. "But I think we're starting to see that turn a little bit. I think you're starting to see, as more and more people become aware of some of the positive impacts, it's starting to turn a little bit. (The health clinic) is a big positive. Probably one of the bigger ones I've seen."

"People who might have started as skeptical, and maybe even jaded, have realized that there are people who are just trying to do the right thing and build it for the right reasons," said Sramek.

But CA Forever also needs public support to pass a voter imitative that would allow the farmland to be rezoned. And so far, polls show the public remains hesitant to do that. Back at "Pizza A Go-Go", Robin said she's just afraid of what will happen to her quiet city if thousands of CA Forever residents begin cutting through downtown for their commute.

"I'll tell you what I would rather keep my small town and have to drive to the doctor," she said.  "That's how I feel."

Details about the new clinics were vague, but Sramek said the company plans to contribute tens of millions of dollars to rural healthcare in the next 10-15 years, regardless of the outcome of the voter initiative. And while a new clinic for urgent care would be helpful to a lot of people, a loss of trust is something that may take a lot longer to heal.

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