City Council had a discussion of parks foundation during
the June 11, 2014 Legislative Meeting, as part of the consideration of receipt
of the Citywide Parks Improvement Plan. During that discussion, Vice Mayor
Silberberg proposed that the City establish an Alexandria Parks Foundation as a
tax-deductible way to support parks, open space and tree canopy in the City.
The Council voted to receive the Plan, including the creation of a Parks
Foundation. This action did not, however, officially establish a Parks Foundation.
A copy of the relevant section of the meeting minutes is attached (Attachment
March 24, 2016, staff sent a memo to Mayor Silberberg in response to her
request for information regarding the creation of a Parks Foundation. A copy of
that memo is attached (Attachment 2). This memo outlines that the purpose of a Parks Foundation, as
staff understands the concept, would be to raise funds for tree planting,
capital projects and other activities to benefit local parks. The establishment
of a foundation or non-profit organizations to support City activities and
capital projects is one way for the government to encourage private investment
as a means to provide a public good.
In the last 15 years, Council has created the Alexandria Capital Development
Foundation aimed at raising capital funds for City projects (this Foundation
did not raise significant funds and was disbanded), the non-profit Alexandria
Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) which has become a successful non-profit
housing developer and owner of affordable and workforce housing, as well as the
Torpedo Factory Arts Board (TFAB) which currently is undergoing a discussion as
to its future role. In addition, the Governance Committee of the Waterfront
Commission has been talking about future governance models for the waterfront
and including the possible establishment of a Parks Conservancy.
All of these entities were established as separate organizations and
either employed staff or consultants to operate these entities. If a Foundation
was created it would bring with it a certain level of overhead costs and
additional management time.
The core question is “What is the best way to promote giving to
benefit the parks?” Encouraging private giving is a priority and the Department
of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) has been working on a new
consolidated giving program as the answer to that question. It is staff's view
that current programs including the newly organized program described in more
detail in Attachment 2 should work well in increasing the level of private
giving towards City parks.
has also received a budget memo (dated April 21, 2016) regarding the
establishment of a business improvement district in the Old Town and Waterfront
areas of the City. As the memo points out, both the Waterfront Commission
Governance Subcommittee and local retail business owners have recommended
governance structures that may involve fund raising to help support parks and
open space. While these discussions are currently focusing primarily in Old
Town and along the Waterfront, further exploration of these concepts may
provide guidance for a city-wide approach to fundraising.
Staff recommends continuing to monitor the development of governance structure alternatives in the Old Town area, as well as the implementation of the RPCA programs described in Attachment 2. As these programs develop, staff will be better able to determine what, if any, additional support is necessary to promote giving associated with parks, open space and tree canopy.
Attachment 1 – City Council Legislative Session Minutes (June 11, 2014)