Urban Design Senior Planner
Job Posted: 29 April, 2021
Company: City of Tacoma's Planning & Development Services Department
Closing Date: 20 May, 2021
Location: Tacoma, WA


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$76,502.40 - $98,092.80 Annually
Job Type Classified

Are you a highly motivated person who is passionate about urban design 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 (Urban Design).

This Civil Service Eligible List will be used for the purpose of filling vacancies for a period of one year. This includes both permanent and possibly project position(s).

Position Profile:

Under the general direction of the Planning Division Manager, the Senior Planner (Urban Design) serves as a key member of our long-range 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 growing emphasis on urban design and quality development, with a focus on developing a design review program, design guidelines/standards, and educating the public about the program and principles of urban design.

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 includes long-range land use, neighborhood, 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 effectively and sensitively oversee highly visible and sometimes controversial projects. 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 urban design sensibility and extensive experience with visual communication methods and tools are a must. Experience and familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite and 3-D modeling software, such as Sketch-up or Rhino 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;
  • Researches and analyzes technical data pertaining to complex and/or highly sensitive development, construction, and land use issues;
  • Interprets and applies applicable state and municipal codes, ordinances and regulations;
  • Administers updates and maintenance of Comprehensive Plan and land development regulations;
  • Administers review of various development applications including plats, permits, site plans, variance requests and re-zonings;
  • Conducts extensive research in specific or general project areas;
  • Writes and presents formal and technical reports, working papers, and correspondence;
  • Conducts research and prepares statistical reports on land use, physical, social & economic issues;
  • 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 years of progressively responsible planning experience


Master's degree with two years of progressively responsible experience in the planning profession


Equivalent education/experience.


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 preferred
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA), Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), or similar design and sustainability credentials are highly desired but not required