VSAmong billionaires, one utopia chases another. After the secessionist islands of libertarian Peter Thiel, a floating (fiscal) paradise never out of the waters, here is the city in the fields project of investor Michael Moritz, 69 years old, the man of the moment in Silicon Valley. Originally from Wales, Sir Michael Moritz – he was knighted by the Queen of England in 2013 – was for almost forty years one of the headliners of Sequoia, the investment firm with a portfolio valued at $53 billion (49.67 billion euros). A former journalist, he published the first Apple story in 1984 (The Apple Game. The great adventure of Apple Computer, Denoël, 1987). Crazy projects are no stranger to him.
In 2017, the billionaire had a vision of a new city, northeast of San Francisco. Another possibility for the suburbs; a city built not for cars but for conviviality and pedestrians. At the time, the capital of new technologies was at its peak but the first signs of disenchantment were appearing. Public opinion rumbled against “Google Buses”, these private shuttles which took programmers to the office at the expense of public transport. Today, employees are reluctant to return to their open spaces more than twice a week, despite the sushi bars and vinyasa yoga sessions. The journey bores them, the traffic stresses them, even in a Tesla.
Michael Moritz and his friends spotted an ideal setting in eastern Solano County, 140 kilometers from Silicon Valley. The “techies” would be peaceful, among cows, sheep, barley and wheat, on the edge of the Sacramento River delta, a haven for migratory birds. The region is mainly agricultural. All you had to do was buy the land. United under the name Flannery ociates, the investors acquired the plots, one after the other, at a price well above the market price, from operators bound by confidentiality. Farmers who refuse to sell face prosecution from Flannery ociates for illegally colluding to drive up prices.
Everything accessible on foot
At the beginning of August, the group took off the mask and publicly exposed the project. Among them, in addition to Michael Moritz, are some big names in technology: the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, the venture capitalist John Doerr, the founders of Stripe, Patrick and John Collison, the widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, and the essential investor Marc Andreessen. In five years, the partners acquired 22,000 hectares at a cost of $800 million. Their goal: to facilitate access to property in a state where real estate prices are undermining the American dream.
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