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Solano Land Trust opposes California Forever due to environmental harm fears, claims of "misleading" marketing

There is new opposition to a plan to build a new Solano County city
There is new opposition to a plan to build a new Solano County city 02:28

SOLANO COUNTY -- The Solano Land Trust said it has carefully weighed for months how it would respond to California Forever and its billionaire-backed push to build a new city on Solano County farmland.

The board of directors wanted to make sure they all researched their stance well, weighing each potential environmental impact. Ultimately, the Trust publicly announced its opposition to the East Solano Plan on Thursday.

"This community has been built very clearly with the plan in mind to develop in our cities and protect the space in between our cities for working farms and natural areas. That is part of the quality of life here and the charm here," said Nicole Braddock, executive director of Solano Land Trust.

The trust permanently protects over 25,000 acres of natural areas and agricultural lands; including Jepson Prairie Preserve, King-Swett Ranches, Lynch Canyon, Rush Ranch and Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park.

Jepson Prairie Preserve borders land bought up by California Forever, where Braddock said some of the preserve's ecosystem stretches into.


The trust believes the environmental impact on the surrounding area would be detrimental.

"When you look at this area's ability to grow food without water, it's one of the most water-efficient places to grow food in the state. You see this incredible habitat so close to and part of the greater Jepson Prairie ecosystem and the fact that the Delta is so close. Just behind me is the Barker Slough pumping plant where we pump water for Solano County residents. This is our drinking water," Braddock said.

California Forever's ballot measure, the East Solano Plan, needs local voter support this November to rezone the 17,500 acres of Solano County farmland where they want to build a new city. The push is backed by a team of Silicon Valley tech billionaires.

Related | California Forever promises new Solano County investments, pushback to proposed city grows

"Their strategy is to mislead voters into thinking this is a wasteland but the land is operating with such incredible value from habitat to water recharge to growing food," Braddock said.

California Forever said in a statement to CBS13 about the Trust's opposition"

"The East Solano plan will serve all of Solano County and is intentionally located on just 17,500 acres, safely away from the Jepson Prairie, Delta, and Suisun Marsh. We are proposing a compact, sustainable community where there is no ecological habitat, on poor soils, with low fire risk, according to official state and county maps. Due to poor soils, the entire 17,500 acres produces only $6 million worth of agricultural production a year - only 1.6% of Solano County's total of $385 million."

Braddock does not agree that the Jepson Prairie Preserve and Suisun Marsh are "safely away" considering they border the land owned by California Forever. She also refuted the claim that there is no ecological habitat and said the indicator that the soil is "poor" is skewed by state metrics that score it lower because it is not irrigated.


"The impact on our agricultural economy can't be over-stressed. It's our second-largest economy in Solano County. When you take this much land out of that agricultural system, it affects all the other farms in the county because they all depend on each other," Braddock said.

California Forever in its response told CBS13 it takes its stewardship of over 60,000 acres of land extremely seriously and buckled down on its desire to drive new economic development and build what would be the largest solar farm in the state.

"The East Solano Plan will bring thousands of jobs, homes, and economic opportunity that can benefit all of the diverse communities of Solano County, not just the wealthy few who inherited millions of dollars of land from prior generations and are now trying to pull up the ladder behind them," said a spokesperson for California Forever.

The Solano Land Trust said, considering that the land now owned by California Forever is bigger than the cities of Fairfield and Vallejo combined, they feel the new development for up to a proposed 400,000 people would cause irreversible harm to the county's water, air quality, traffic, farmland and natural environment.

"Water quality affects us all. To have increased traffic especially and the associated pollution from traffic and increased development, that is going to directly affect our water quality," Braddock said. "It really goes against our mission of protecting working farms, natural areas, land and water in Solano County for current and future generations."

Braddock also snapped back at what she perceived as an insulting insinuation from California Forever that the trust's opposition to the plan was all politics.

The statement from California Forever reads:

"We are disappointed by Solano Land Trust's actions, but not surprised. Their primary donor is the Orderly Growth Committee, funded by a tax on every trash bill in Solano County. We would hope that those funds would be put to better use by focusing on homes and jobs for Solano County's residents."

Braddock said that it is factually incorrect that the OGC taxes every trash bill in the county and therefore would have some incentive to lobby the trust to oppose California Forever.

"It's not true. The Orderly Growth Committee funding is through San Francisco residents because they are trucking their trash out here to Solano County and that's where that money comes from," Braddock said.

CBS13 confirmed that Thursday night with an OGC leader.

Braddock said that the Solano Land Trust came to its conclusion that California Forever is wrong for Solano County on its own and based on the fact that it sees "no path forward" to the group addressing their concerns about water resources, traffic congestion, conservation of open space lands to grow food, protection of wildlife and plants, and support for Solano County's agricultural economy.

California Forever said that it wants to respect Solano's agricultural heritage while providing growth and opportunity for generations to come.

"The decision ahead is how opportunity for all can lift up our collective communities from Vallejo to Dixon and Fairfield to Rio Vista. We believe in the future of Solano County and want its people to have the opportunity to build a better future for their families," a spokesperson told CBS13.

The East Solano Plan is expected to be on the November ballot in the general election. The Solano Land Trust in its opposition encourages neighbors to vote "no."

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