Senior Planner – Comprehensive Planning – Planning and Development Services

City of Tacoma
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA
Added on: 2 May 2023, Job offer expires on: 30 Sep 2023

Are you a highly motivated person who is passionate about working with diverse community members to solve complex problems and building great communities? The City of Tacoma’s Planning & Development Services Department is looking for an experienced Planner to join our team as a Senior Planner.

Position Profile:
Under the general direction of the Principal Planner for Comprehensive Planning, the Senior Planner serves as a key member of the comprehensive planning team and works on a variety of complex, long-range planning and policy projects. This specific position will be at the forefront of Tacoma’s 2024 update to the One Tacoma Comprehensive Plan, coordinating the overall effort among inter-departmental teams and diverse community partners. This effort will include a significant focus on ensuring that the One Tacoma Comprehensive Plan supports: 1. The expansion of and access to 20-minute neighborhoods, 2. Equitable delivery of community facilities and services, 3. The City’s greenhouse gas reduction targets, and 4. Addressing disparate community health outcomes.  This position will require the ability to coordinate effectively with external partners such the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Pierce Transit, Metro Parks Tacoma, and other service providers and adjacent jurisdictions. Furthermore, a strong focus of the position will be to develop strategies to expand community engagement and education around the principles of planning and smart growth, the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan, and the implementing of programs and regulations.

Senior Planners independently perform and lead professional level planning and assist in the formulation of departmental goals and objectives, interpret and prepare data for planning studies, reports and recommendations, provide staff support to planning and other commissions, boards and committees and the City Council, oversee grant-funded projects and consultant contracts, and may supervise or lead professional or other staff members. Responsibilities include resolving complex planning issues that have broad potential impact and may involve competing interests, multiple clients, conflicting rules or practices, a range of possible solutions or other elements that contribute to complexity.

The Department:
The Planning & Development Service Department’s (PDS) mission is to partner with the community to build a livable, sustainable, and safe City by providing strategic, timely, predictable, cost-effective planning and development services with a culture focused on community engagement, customer service, creativity, accountability, and continuous improvement. The Department encompasses all aspects of building, land use, and site development.

The Planning Division comprises urban planning and design professionals who work with the community to develop the vision and implementation strategies that guide growth and development so that it enhances the quality of life for present and future generations. The Division’s work spans a broad scope, including land use, urban design, neighborhood planning, housing, and environmental planning, as well as the City’s Historic Preservation Program. We work together with the community, City Council, Planning Commission, and Landmarks Preservation Commission to develop and update the One Tacoma Comprehensive Plan, along with neighborhood and subarea plans, and associated regulations and implementation strategies that guide the future development of the built and natural environment of Tacoma.

Candidate Profile:
The successful candidate will have broad experience and knowledge of long-range planning and policy development in the public sector, and an understanding of how such issues can positively impact the community and its citizens. The candidate will need to work well with others in a collaborative team setting and have the ability to oversee highly visible and sometimes controversial projects effectively and sensitively. To effectively navigate in a complex organization, the candidate will possess strong interoffice and interagency relationship building and management skills, as well as a nuanced understanding of organizational decision-making and operation. Knowledge of federal, state and local laws, ordinances and codes pertaining to a wide variety of planning topics, including Washington’s Growth Management Act (GMA), State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Shoreline Management Act (SMA) are needed to perform this role. A strong background in project management, policy and code writing, and community engagement methods is desired.

Our Ideal Candidate will possess the following competencies:

  • Organized, self-starter with strong ability in the prioritization and management of projects and work tasks.
  • Ability to gain the confidence and trust of others through honesty, integrity, and authenticity, and build partnerships and maintain effective relationships with other local and regional agencies, the private design and development community, and the community at-large.
  • Skilled in gathering data, analyzing information, and applying quantitative and qualitative analyses in a clear and rational thought process to assess and understand issues, evaluate options, form accurate conclusions, and make recommendations for resolution.
  • Ability to make high-level public presentations before the City Council, to the business community and other groups.
  • Able to readily adapt to constantly changing and multiple business needs and projects, resulting in frequent re-prioritization of project tasks and timelines.
  • Excellent public speaking and written communication skills, including the ability to communicate complex processes and urban design concepts in an understandable way.
  • Recognizes the value that different perspectives and cultures bring to our organization and has an outstanding ability to relate to diverse audiences.

Essential Duties: 
The following are illustrative examples of the essential functions of the job.
Depending on position/assignment, a Senior Planner typically:

  • Serves in lead capacity for short-term and long-term planning projects and projects
  • Leads and/or supervises Associate Planners, interns, consultants and other staff
  • Interprets and applies applicable state and municipal codes, ordinances and regulations
  • Administers updates and maintenance of Comprehensive Plan and land development regulations
  • Conducts extensive research in specific or general project areas
  • Writes and presents formal and technical reports, working papers, and correspondence
  • Provides professional planning assistance on varied land use projects
  • Identifies community problems, issues, and opportunities in particular neighborhoods or areas that could be mitigated through better community planning
  • Develops long range plans for areas with common developmental issues
  • Develops strategies to promote economic and community development or efficient land use consistent with city goals
  • Writes, or assists in writing, a variety of plans, ordinances and regulations relating to development controls
  • Explains and interprets complex rules, policies and operating procedures
  • Develops solutions and/or recommendations
  • Coordinates work of unit with that of other areas in division, department, other departments or other agencies
  • May represent City or division on regional boards, committees or other governmental organizations
  • Attends substantial number of evening and weekend meetings
  • Performs other work as assigned

City of Tacoma Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
Tacoma’s diversity is its greatest asset. Tacoma embraces its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic character. Communities of color and immigrant communities are fundamental to Tacoma’s entrepreneurial spirit, workforce, and long-term success. In Tacoma, equity and empowerment are top priorities, meaning that all Tacoma residents must have equitable opportunities to reach their full potential and share in the benefits of community progress. One of our goals is for the City of Tacoma workforce to reflect the community it serves. We actively work to eliminate racial and other disparities and welcome candidates with diverse backgrounds and/or multicultural skill sets and experiences. Our goal is for Tacoma to be an inclusive and equitable place to live, work, and play.



  • Bachelor’s degree in planning, architecture, public administration, urban design, engineering or closely allied field and four (4) years of progressively responsible planning experience


  • Master’s degree with two (2) years of progressively responsible experience in the planning profession
  • Equivalency: 1 year of experience = 1 year of education

There may be instances where individual positions must have additional licenses or certification. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the appropriate licenses/certifications are obtained for each position.

  • Depending upon assignment a WA driver’s license may be required
  • American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification is desired but not required

Knowledge & Skills

Technical Knowledge
Theory, principles and techniques of the planning profession and development process with an understanding of the interrelationships of land use, transportation, economy, environment, health, human services with plans and regulations; including one or more planning disciplines, such as land use, design, growth management or natural resources; federal, state and local laws, ordinances and codes pertaining to a wide variety of planning topics; technical research and analysis, report development, budget management, and City government organization, policies and procedures. Proficiency with computer hardware and software programs, which may include Microsoft Office, Internet applications, project management applications and GIS.

Employ expertise, credibility, and effective partnering to help clients identify, evaluate, and resolve complex or sensitive issues, problems, and service needs. Identify resources and potential solutions that are practical and effective, understanding when, where and how to implement those options. Excel at helping the customer navigate through complex or sensitive issues, advising on best practices and important trends. Think and act proactively about service issues, following up to make sure desired outcomes are realized.

Use data and information in clear and rational thought process to assess and understand issues, evaluate options, form accurate conclusions, and make decisions. Judge or infer appropriate responses to a set of information on the basis of clear guidelines or procedures. Form accurate conclusions regarding actions to be taken.

Workload Management
Effectively manage multiple, high-priority assignments or issues simultaneously and meet firm deadlines; effectively and sensitively oversee highly visible/controversial projects or involving competing priorities and analyzing situations to develop a course of action to produce work products that are accurate, thorough and on time.

Communications Effectiveness
Effective communication both verbal and in writing including the compilation of reports, presentations and records; and interacting respectfully and sensitively with individuals and groups to develop and maintain productive relationships and achieve results. Sustaining public trust while improving accountability; interacting with all levels of staff, public, various officials and others. Technically edit and provide oversight for the preparation of technical reports; use discretion and sound judgment handling assignments and workplace situations.

Selection Process & Supplemental Information

Senior Planner - Comprehensive Planning - Planning and Development Services description image
To be considered for this opportunity:
Interested individuals must apply online and meet the minimum qualifications to progress in the examination process. Applicants must attach a detailed resume and cover letter describing your job experience, major responsibilities and accomplishments related to this position. Candidates are invited but not required, to submit a portfolio of their work. NOTE:  Applications received without attaching the required resume and cover letter will not progress in the selection process. Submitting a portfolio is not a requirement.

In order for your application materials to be considered, all information must be submitted by the closing date and time listed on this job announcement.

Examination Process:
Applicants who meet the minimum qualifications will have their responses to Supplemental Questions # 7-13 reviewed by a committee of subject matter expertsIt is the responsibility of the applicants to adequately describe all pertinent experience and training. Please make sure you read the questions and provide complete informative answers.  DO NOT respond with “see resume” in lieu of answering these questions; this will result in a failing score.

Appointment is subject to passing a background check and reference checks with acceptable results.

When you work for the City of Tacoma you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a healthy work/life balance, the potential for flexible work schedules (with some job classifications), continuing education programs, leadership pathways, wellness incentives and a total rewards benefits program. We welcome you to take a look at our website and discover how the City of Tacoma can make your next career move part of our combined destiny:

The City of Tacoma believes that each employee makes a significant contribution to our success. This job description is designed to outline primary duties, qualifications and job scope.  The omission of specific statements of duties does not exclude them from the position if the work is similar, related or a logical assignment to the position.

Communication from the City of Tacoma:
We primarily communicate via email during the application process. Emails from and/or must be placed on your safe domain list to ensure that you receive notifications in a timely manner. As a precaution, you may also want to check your junk email folders.

The online application system requires you to enter a substantial amount of information. In order for your application materials to be considered, all information must be submitted by the closing date and time listed on this job announcement.

For assistance with the NEOGOV application process, or questions regarding this job announcement, please call Human Resources at (253) 591.5400 before 4:00 pm of the closing date of the job announcement.

This job was added under Others category

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