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Michael Fortney: Let’s create tomorrow together

By Michael Fortney · Fri Mar 08 2024

Originally published in The Vacaville Reporter

Our family has lived in Solano County for over a century. My great-grandparents first settled in Montezuma Hills in East Solano in 1905. But whether your family has lived here for several generations or only a few years, we all agree there’s a unique and special reason we chose to move here or choose to stay here. Where we sometimes disagree is how we keep it special, protect Travis Air Force Base, protect our economy, and offer living opportunities for the next generation.

That’s the debate we’re entering now – how does the new community proposed by California Forever for East Solano fit into our future and protect our quality of life? The reality is, we can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Rent is expensive, buying a home is out of reach for young families, and our cities are sprawling into the truly productive farmland we need to protect. If you ask people what Solano can do for the Air Force, they’ll tell you it’s to improve quality of life issues, such as good homes military families can afford and employment for spouses.

When the intentions of California Forever became public late last summer, I had no opinions at first, other than I was disappointed in how we all learned about it. But, I wanted to find out more, so I messaged Jan Sramek. We met and I attended their town hall meetings. Over time, what I discovered was a sincere interest in listening, in taking feedback, in basing their plans on what they are hearing from our community. I watched them take the comments of first Solano County and then Travis Air Force Base so seriously that they amended their ballot proposal twice. The second time, in a very material way that shows the same determination to protect Travis that mirrors what we’ve all shared for years.

Over the last few months, I have come to realize that California Forever has become the answer to the question many of us have been trying to answer about how best to protect our future in Solano. I’ve come to believe that so strongly that I left my job of almost 30 years to join the company as their director of partnerships, to inform, to listen, and to work with partners in both the public and private sectors to build something special, together. I joined the company because I believe this is a great opportunity for Solano – and to make sure things are done right for the community where our family has lived for generations.

In 2008, I volunteered for the last Solano County General Plan to protect agricultural lands and make changes farmers needed. In the time since my wife and I bought our first home in the ‘90s, I’ve seen what was once an affordable option become out of reach to this generation. My home on the edge of Vacaville is no longer on the edge. Our resources and quality of life are getting strained.

Many of our existing cities are now surrounded by prime farmland, some of the best in all of California. Building a new community in east Solano offers an alternative that protects that prime farmland – by directing growth to Solano’s least productive, non-prime lands.

The proposed ballot initiative starts by protecting Travis AFB, by almost doubling the security buffer around the base to nearly 15,000 acres. It then proposes a dynamic, walkable community on an area that’s slightly smaller than Vacaville, built upon a foundation of 10 Voter Guarantees that include 15,000 good paying jobs, $500 million in community benefits, $200 million for investments in existing Solano downtowns, and a set of infrastructure guarantees about transportation, water, and schools. The build out and running of the new community would be managed by Solano County, through the Board of Supervisors. This would be new in Solano County, but is common elsewhere in California. For example, Arden Arcade and Fair Oaks are both large unincorporated communities in Sacramento County.

We’ve all talked about creative solutions for what comes next in Solano County. Building a new community in East Solano that can serve as an economic engine for all of Solano County for the next half a century offers us just that. It’s a chance to bring some great things to Solano – and a chance to make sure our kids and grandkids have a future here. As the issue moves from speculation to reality, and before the buzzwords of election season take over, let’s have these conversations together.

If you want to talk about how we can do this right, my email is

— Michael Fortney is a native of Fairfield and now resides in Vacaville and recently retired from Placer Title Company with 30 years of land use entitlement experience.