October 13, 2023

Policy Champion – Chad Augustin, Fire Chief, City of Pasadena

Chad Augustin joined the City of Pasadena as its new fire chief in February 2021 from the Sacramento Fire Department where he worked for 23 years in a broad range of areas including operations, administration, human resources, professional standards, training, emergency medical services and fire prevention. With a master of legal studies from University of Arizona and a bachelor’s in fire administration from Waldorf University, he was poised to take on the process of updating the hazardous materials ordinance.

In early 2022, the Biocom California team brought a concern we were hearing from our members to the City of Pasadena: the city’s hazardous materials reporting requirements were particularly onerous compared to other jurisdictions, and much more stringent than state guidelines. Between March and October 2022, we worked with city leadership, including Chief Augustin, to develop a policy to bring Pasadena’s reporting requirements in line with the state. Biocom California connected our members with the city team to provide technical guidance on the proposal and solicited support from our members. We testified in support of the new rules at city council and ultimately the proposal was passed in October 2022. Chief Augustin led this process on the city’s behalf and this change could not have happened without his support and expertise.

What was the catalyst that began your work on updating the hazardous materials ordinance? Are there other jurisdictions that you looked at to model this policy?

Having come to Pasadena from Sacramento, I had many opportunities to work with stakeholders to change ordinances. In the case of Pasadena, I recognized the rationale for the ordinances, but they did not balance the need for promoting business-friendly growth, while still maintaining public safety. As codes and technology change, we must constantly evaluate our ordinances to ensure they are not overly stringent.

My team was extremely diligent in reviewing other jurisdictions up and down the state to ensure we were able to update our ordinance to be more business friendly, while still providing a very high level of public safety protection.

What roadblocks did you encounter working on this policy? How could they be overcome in the future? What were some resources that you sought, or people who helped you, that ultimately achieved this policy change?

Institutional knowledge is extremely beneficial. It allows an outsider like me to gain a better understanding of “the why” an ordinance was enacted. It can occasionally be a roadblock if you are not open to evaluating best practices that are successful elsewhere. In this case, there were no real roadblocks. My team was very supportive and wanted to partner to protect public safety standards, while being sympathetic to our business community’s needs for growth.

What is it about this industry that makes you want to support it? How do you make the case for supporting life science?

In my humble opinion, life science is one of the most important industries for future generations and we are fortunate to have so many brilliant minds in Pasadena. Maintaining a relationship with this community of forward thinkers can only benefit the City of Pasadena, which makes this a wonderful partnership.

From diabetes to heart disease, researchers of life sciences are diligently working to find better medications, procedures, and innovative technologies. Not only do I want this improved lifestyle for my community, but also, I selfishly want it for the health and safety of my firefighters. Heart disease is a major factor in the untimely deaths of many firefighters. After a long career of dedicated service to our community, I know the citizens of Pasadena believe these brave men and women deserve to live a long and happy life in retirement, just like them.

What is it about the City of Pasadena that makes it a good place for life science to grow and thrive?

The case for supporting life science in Pasadena is easy and I will just quote Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo: “Pasadena is the center of the universe.” We are close to major metro cities and transportation, but far enough away to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of Pasadena. There are few, if any, cities that strive to be as welcoming as Pasadena to our life science community.

What other policy opportunities are there that the city could pursue to help life science? What’s the next thing you’d like to work on to support the industry?

Pasadena is a dense city, with limited vacant space. We need to find a way to wrap our arms around supporting life science with more lab space. Infill projects that are 4 to 7 stories will become more common in Pasadena due to the limited space. Personally, I want to evaluate regulations that may prove a challenge to build lab space on higher floors.

How can the industry or Biocom California help your city flourish?

By having a true partnership, Pasadena will benefit by having sustainable funding for the future. A healthy and financially secure full service city benefits everyone.

A partnership with the life science industry also brings awareness and positive public relations to Pasadena. Not everyone knows what a great place Pasadena is to live, work and thrive. This partnership is one way to highlight Pasadena’s business friendly environment.