Larry Augusta, a former state tax lawyer and Sacramento planning commissioner who was active in politics and education, died Tuesday of complications following recent surgery, his family said. He was 74.
Mr. Augusta, who devoted his life to public service on the job and in the community, spent 34 years as a top lawyer at the state Board of Equalization. As the agency's legislative liaison, he was instrumental in crafting legislation to implement Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 limit on state property taxes.
A longtime east Sacramento resident, he worked in political campaigns for Joe Serna, Illa Collin and Phil Angelides. He ran unsuccessfully for the Sacramento City Council in 1981 and 1989.
He served on the city Planning Commission from 1974 to 1986 and was an advocate for neighborhoods in major land-use issues, including hospital expansion projects, downtown office construction and South Natomas development. He helped create a process for reviewing project designs and served on the city's architectural review board.
"Larry knew intuitively that land-use issues were often design issues," former planning commissioner Fred Silva said. "He saw a connection between human scale and the environment."
Mr. Augusta championed music education programs amid budget cutbacks. He led a community group that lobbied for band classes in schools and raised money for the visual and performing arts magnet program at Sacramento High School. His family established a music scholarship fund at California State University, Sacramento.
As a longtime member and past president of the Sacramento State Alumni Association, he led efforts to build the Alumni Center and to celebrate the group's 50th anniversary in 2000. He served on an advisory group in the selection process that led to the hiring of CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez in 2003.
"Larry was one of the first people I met when I came to Sacramento, and he made me feel very welcome," Gonzalez said in a written statement. "Right away, I was very impressed by his deep connection to our campus. He was a great friend to me and to Sacramento State."
Born on April 13, 1939, in Sacramento, Mr. Augusta grew up in Walnut Grove. He graduated from Courtland High School, studied at UC Berkeley and played tuba in the Cal marching band.
He graduated from Sacramento State in 1962 and from law school at UC Berkeley in 1965. He retired as assistant chief counsel for the Board of Equalization in 2002.
He served on the boards of the YMCA, the Sacramento Old City Association and the Sacramento City Educational Foundation. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Sacramento State Alumni Association in 2007.
Mr. Augusta had three children with his wife of 48 years, Suzanne, who survives him. He was a gracious and gregarious man who enjoyed being with people.
"He loved a big party," said his son Brian, a prominent lawyer and affordable-housing advocate. "If there was any occasion to have a party birthdays, a retirement, the Super Bowl we were going to have a party. And everybody was welcome."
Mr. Augusta's survivors include his children Brad of Arcadia, and Brian and Libby, both of Sacramento; brother, Joseph of Arlington, Va.; sisters, Charlotte Meisel of Sacramento, and Shirley Rutz of Lodi; and four grandchildren.
A memorial is planned for 2 p.m. Aug. 25 at the CSUS Alumni Center.
Memorial donations may be made to the Augusta Family Visual and Performing Arts Scholarship Fund. Donors may designate "Augusta Scholarship" on the donation line and make checks payable to the University Foundation at Sacramento State, 6000 J St., Sacramento, 95819. Donations also may be made at www.csus.edu/giving.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.