International film festival to draw Hollywood to Menifee

Written by Michelle Mears-Gerst
Menifee: The community of Menifee is now home to the new California DocuFilm Festival. This event will be kicking off the global season of film festivals beginning in December. Filmmakers and actors from around the world and Los Angeles will transcend upon the local community to share their expertise and talent


The location of Menifee being perfectly situated between Palm Springs and Los Angeles was one of the many hooks Menifee’s Mayor Scott Mann talked about when bringing the film festival to town.

Historically, Hollywood elite used to travel to an enclave, called Quail Valley now part of Menifee in the 1930’s. It was the perfect location for a weekend escape according to the Menifee Historical Society. Vacationers built cottages, bungalows and craftsman style homes for their retreats. It was also drew middle class sportsmen who did not want to travel from Los Angeles to Palm Springs.

Menifee’s location contiinues to help it grow and move forward in Southern California. On Monday, August 22 a meet and greet was held at the Santa Rosa Academy where foreign diplomats and sponsors converged to support the international film festival. On hand for the press conference were Eugen Chivu, Consul General of Romania; Sinisa Girgic, Consul General of Croatia; Gregory Karahalios, Consul General of Greece; Henri Vantieghem, Consul General of Belgium; and Mariusz Brymora, Consul General of Poland.

Film Fest Creators

There will be a dozen foreign ambassadors signed on to support the international film festival. Also on hand were Santa Rosa Academy Executive Director Laura Badillo and MSJC President Dr. Roger Schultz. The festival is taking place from Dec. 6 -11 in Menifee.

Mann helped bring the festival to the city by introducing television personality Daphne Barak to Menifee in 2015 when her partner Bill Gunasti was running for mayor of Palm Springs.

Mann convinced Barak to help develop a magnet and lead it as its chairwoman. Barak, is known for her books and exclusive TV interviews with A-listers of Hollywood and world leaders. The magnet Barak thought must be something to do with the entertainment and media industries. That is how the DocuFilmFestival was born.

Badillo, and Schultz, were contacted and asked to join Mann and Barack in this endeavor. Mt. San Jacinto College is a strategic partner with the festival. According to the festival organizers, the college is a great educational institution that is expanding. Becoming a partner to the festival will contribute to the college’s future growth.

The festival will take place on the 25-acre campus of Santa Rosa Academy. The campus will be transformed into the FestivalGrounds. It will also be an opportunity for local residents to enjoy the unique campus on Santa Rosa Academy.

The festival will feature documentaries from filmmakers around the world. However, youth and first time filmmakers will also have a category.

Mann has told reporters, “With Menifee’s centralized location in Southern California — an hour from San Diego, Los Angeles, the beaches, and the mountain and desert resorts — we are well positioned to have such an incredible international event here. Collaborating with our premier community college MSJC and Santa Rosa Academy charter school helps deliver a new dimension to their programs. It’s all very exciting.”

Mann brought Barak to Menifee with a vision and she is going big. The DocuFilmFestival plans to fill a large void in the birthplace of movies.

According to its website, DocuFilmFestival plans to become the only international documentary film festival in California, big enough to challenge the current leading documentary film festivals worldwide.

They are holding the event during the first two weeks of December when no other major film festival is taking place around the world.

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Contact: (760) 980-3057

Mayor Outlines Growth, Successes in State of City Address

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann addressed several issues at Thursday's State of the City event.
Posted by Doug Spoon

Citing Menifee’s status as the sixth fastest growing city in California, Mayor Scott Mann Thursday updated residents and local dignitaries on the city’s “Keep Menifee Moving” vision during the sixth annual State of the City address.

A large crowd at Menifee Lakes Country Club attended the event, which was presented by the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce. In his speech to the guests, Mann described the city’s efforts to continue commercial and residential development while maintaining the rural charm of the city.

“Your city is constantly thinking outside the box and trying to come up with new and creative ways to do business and provide quality service to our residents,” Mann said. “We are planning for the future with a vision aligned with policy goals. We are taking on new issues that produce a quality of life for our residents and their families — a qualify of life we can all be proud of.

“A feature that attracts people to Menifee is our rural charm. If you look around in the county and even in the state of California, there are not many cities that still have a rural element to them. We as a city council recognize our founding characteristics of a rural community with open land and embraced it within our general plan.”

These city statistics were presented during Scott Mann’s address Thursday.

While preserving large lots of open land within the city’s 46 square miles, Mann said city officials are focusing on what he calls the “quality of life cycle” of the city’s “Keep Menifee Moving” vision:

— Businesses bring more customers and more revenue.
— Property owners enjoy higher property values.
— Visitors have more shopping and recreation options.
— The city enjoys increased revenues for city services.
— Residents enjoy new benefits and amenities.

In describing the commercial developments at the heart of this cycle, Mann updated guests on the status of the city’s largest commercial projects, including the much talked-about Menifee Town Center.

Located to the south of Newport Road just west of Haun Road, Menifee Town Center will include:

— 558,000 square feet of mixed use development
— Retail businesses anchored by a Krikorian theater complex, bowling alley and sports bar
— A new city hall
— A Central Park with walking trail, tot lot, splash pad and an outdoor amphitheater for the performing arts
— Medium and low density residential housing
— Restaurants (to be announced)
— Possibly a court house

Mann also announced new businesses that have committed to the developer of a 12.4-acre parcel right on the corner of Newport and Haun. This project, which is separated from the Menifee Town Center by the Salt Creek channel, is owned by Rich Development, which has announced agreements with the following tenants:

— Aldi’s grocery
— Petsmart
— Party City
— Kirklands
— Buffalo Wild Wings
— Chili’s
— The Habit Burger restaurant
— Jimmy John’s
— El Pollo Loco
— Sonic Drive-in restaurant

Arrow points to the 12.4-acre parcel bordered by Newport Road to the north (right), Salt Creek channel to the west and Haun Road to the east, where Rich Development has commitments from several new businesses. Below is the plot plan showing the proposed location of those businesses. (Click on the image to enlarge).

In another announcement, Mann said that LA Fitness is the first tenant committed to the Menifee Lakes Plaza, which will be built on the northwest corner of Newport Road and Antelope Road.

These announcements are in addition to the following commercial developments previously announced:

— The Shops at Menifee Lakes, a complex on the southeast corner of Newport Road and Menifee Road that will be anchored by a Stater Bros. market and restaurants.

— Newport Town Square, currently under construction on the north side of Newport Road just west of Haun Road. Tenants committed so far include Applebee’s, Five Guys Burgers, Jersey Mike’s Subs and America’s Tire.

— The Junction at Menifee, a 50-acre development on the northwest corner of Scott Road and Haun Road. This will be a master planned retail center with shops and restaurants. No tenants have been announced.

— A Walmart Superstore to be built on the northeast corner of Scott and Haun, between Haun Road and the 215 Freeway. Ground has not been broken on that project, but Mann said it is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2015.

Realizing residents’ concerns about traffic with all the planned developments, Mann also provided an update on the city’s $100 million capital improvement plan, which includes seven major road projects. Two of those — the Newport Road widening project and the Menifee Road “missing link” project — have been completed. The others are:

— Reconstruction of the Newport Road freeway interchange, a $37 million project scheduled to begin late this year.

— The Holland Road overpass, a $17-20 million project which is fully funded and in the design phase.l

— The McCall Boulevard freeway interchange, a $30-40 million project in the design phase.

— The Scott Road freeway interchange, which has completed the design phase but remains $17 million short of its $30-40 million price tag.

— A bridge over Salt Creek on Bradley Road, an $8 million project to resolve flooding issues during rains.

Public safety is another priority in a city of more than 82,000 that has increased 15 percent in population since incorporation in 2008. Contracts with the county Sheriff’s and Fire departments make up 63 percent of the city’s budget, and hiring of three new police officers was recently approved. Mann said city officials continue to support legislation that would restore the loss of millions of dollars in vehicle license fees that would help fund additional officers.

“We are undertaking activities today and making hard decisions now that will produce a higher quality of life tomorrow,” Mann said. “By working collectively together toward future goals and visioning, I am confident that the City of Menifee will continue to be highly sought after as the most desired place to live and raise a family.”

Guests filled the Menifee Lakes Country Club ballroom to hear Mayor Scott Mann speak on Thursday.

Mayor Praises City’s Efforts to Keep Menifee Moving

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann addresses the crowd at Menifee Lakes Country Club Thursday during his State of the City address.
Posted by Doug Spoon

Suffice it to say that Governor Jerry Brown would not win any popularity contests around Menifee City Hall. But that’s OK. City officials had a party anyway, and Brown wasn’t invited.

After the obligatory greeting and introductions, Menifee Mayor Scott Mann began his State of the City address on Thursday by repeating his complaint of the previous night’s City Council meeting. Although he is proud of city officials’ commitment to “keep Menifee moving” in the midst of obstacles, he is frustrated and angry about the major hurdle the governor has placed in their path.

Specifically, Mann is furious that Brown continues to block efforts to restore an annual loss of $4.2 million in potential revenue to the city — a loss created by legislation Brown approved in 2011 that denies revenue from vehicle license fees to four recently incorporated cities — including Menifee.

According to Mann, Menifee has been denied more than $20 million in revenue it would’ve received in VLF funds in the last five years — funds that all cities in the state receive except for Menifee, Wildomar, Jurupa Valley and Eastvale. As part of Brown’s 2011-12 budget adjustments, SB 89 and AB 118 were established to divert that portion of VLF revenue to other state programs.

As City Manager Rob Johnson and Mann pointed out during the City Council meeting, the projected lost revenue of $4.2 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year will mean the difference between a budget surplus and the budget approved Wednesday night — which will be balanced only by dipping into $2.4 million of reserve funds. Even after Johnson cut $1.15 million in proposed expenditures, projected general fund expenses for the city for the next year total $31,795,333, compared to revenue of $29,380,373.

There are currently bills working their way through the state Senate and Assembly seeking to restore those lost VLF funds. There is no indication, however, that Brown would do anything other than what he has done three times before — veto the bills.

“As the City of Menifee heads into its ninth year, we have accomplished many things for a city that has experienced the annual loss of $4.2 million in vehicle license fee revenue,” Mann said at the start of his speech on Thursday. Near the end of his presentation, he brought attention to that point again.

“It is not easy to stand here before you today as the mayor of this remarkable city and report that we have a ‘structural budget deficit’ created by forces outside of the city’s lifelines,” said Mann, who urged guests to write the Governor’s office regarding the situation. “The bottom line with our budget is that the rising costs of public safety is unsustainable over time — and we must do something about it.”

Much has been written previously about the large percentage of the general fund dedicated to police and fire protection — 66 percent of the newly approved budget. Yet while bemoaning the lost VLF revenue and the inability to increase police protection because of rising costs, Mann quickly morphed into an upbeat look at city commercial projects that reflect the city’s growth to nearly 90,000 and the potential tax revenue that will come along with them.

“Despite everything, we have managed to keep Menifee moving, make heads turn, get projects completed, increase jobs and buinesses, and increase the quality of life for our residents,” Mann said. He added that the theme for city development this year is “Progress, Partnership and Posterity.”

Then, in a sign of this multimedia day and age, Mann turned guests’ attention to large screens, where a 17-minute video was played. Introduced by Mann, the four City Council district representatives gave detailed descriptions of projects under way in their areas of the city.