I have heard from so many people in the Solano area who have questions about whether or not they will be voting on a new city in Solano County. The short answer is, no. But it is complicated.
About a month ago, many Solano residents received an anonymous survey asking folks to give their opinion on “an initiative that might be on the ballot in Solano County next year” regarding a project that “would include a new city with tens of thousands of new homes, a large solar energy farm, orchards with over a million new trees, and over ten thousand acres of new parks and open space.” Since then, we have learned that the funders of this poll are a group of Silicon Valley billionaires (aka Flannery Associates) that have spent over $800 million acquiring 60,000+ acres of land in Solano County.
That’s the size of Washington DC and Manhattan put together, so local voters are wondering “will we be voting on a big new city in 2024?”
First, the simple answer: no, there won’t be a legally-binding vote next year to create the new city. In fact, the process for incorporating a new city is complicated and is not something voters will be contending with anytime soon. There are countless studies and actions by governmental agencies that would need to occur before any new city could start to be considered. California doesn’t allow for new cities to be created by ballot initiative.
However, what could be on the ballot is changes to Solano County’s landmark orderly growth ordinance, which protects agricultural land and open space by requiring that new developments be built within existing cities in Solano, while allowing those cities to grow and add new housing. The orderly growth initiative was passed by voters and then extended through 2028, and it can only be changed or overridden by a cote of the people. Changes to this local zoning law, and the Solano County general plan, would be necessary to advance the type of large-scale development being proposed by the Flannery group.
If an initiative qualifies for the 2024 ballot, it will be challenging for voters to evaluate. That’s because ballot initiatives aren’t required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act like a normal zoning ordinance. As a result, the scientific studies, fiscal analysis, traffic evaluations, and other information that would normally be produced before making a decision like this probably won’t be done in time — or possibly at all.
If a ballot initiative for the zoning changes does pass next year, then the process for incorporating a new city would begin. And Solano residents will vote once again.