County of Santa Clara – Principal Planner

Under general direction, to plan, coordinate and direct the work of a major functional area such as permitting, project management, zoning administration, or parks and recreation planning, to manage the most politically sensitive and complex planning projects in Santa Clara County, and to supervise professional, technical and clerical personnel.

The current vacancy is located in the Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development. The Principal Planner position reports to the Planning Manager and is responsible for overseeing one of three sections within the Planning Office – Current Planning & Zoning Administration, Project Management, or Comprehensive Planning.

The Department is seeking a highly motivated, thoughtful, and energetic manager who is open to innovation with a passion for sustainability. A successful candidate will have strong interpersonal and customer service skills, a good foundational understanding of general plans, zoning ordinances and an interest in sustainability, regional planning, and inter-jurisdictional coordination. The Principal Planner is expected to be a strong project manager, specifically in the ability to manage a group of staff and consultants in the processing of complex development applications or general plan update.

The County is a diverse and growing organization that offers a full range of benefits. Applicants are encouraged to explore these options and links to the MOU’s can be found on the Benefits tab.


  • Plans, coordinates and directs the work of a major functional planning unit;
  • Manages complex and sensitive planning applications and projects, performs research and analysis, and oversees the preparation of master plans, concept plans, feasibility studies, environmental documents and other planning-related documents;
  • Monitors and ensures compliance with Local, State and Federal laws;
  • Supervises, directs, assigns and reviews the work of subordinate staff;
  • Interviews, selects and recommends in the hiring of personnel, establishes work standards, evaluates the work performance of employees, forms and oversees teams, and provides mentoring and coaching to employees;
  • Assists in the development and implementation of the planning function’s annual work plan, budget, performance measures, expenditure controls and goals;
  • Evaluates and prepares reports on operations and activities, and leads improvement programs and projects;
  • Makes or supervises presentation of reports and studies to decision-making bodies, concerning County land use and development plans, policies and regulations, private development proposals within the unincorporated area, master plans, concept plans and various other matters affecting land use, parks and recreation or environmental quality in Santa Clara County;
  • Advises managers and confers with elected officials, local government and regional agencies in coordinating planning issues and the work of the office;
  • Provides or supervises staff to support the necessary functions of various county and inter-jurisdictional decision-making bodies or advisory committees such as Board of Supervisors, Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, Airport Land Use Commission, Historic Heritage Commission, Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, and San Martin Planning Advisory Committee;
  • Represents the County on planning matters at commission meetings or boards such as Bay Trail, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council South County Committee and before community groups and at conferences;
  • Acts as liaison to other planning agencies or special districts such as Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and Valley Transportation Authority (VTA);
  • May be assigned as a Disaster Service Worker, as required;
  • Performs other related work as required.


Possession of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college with a major in planning, architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, natural resources, social science or related field;


Five (5) years of progressively responsible, professional experience in planning, including at least one (1) year of responsible project or program management experience.

A Master’s degree in planning may be substituted for two (2) years of the required experience.

A Master’s degree in a closely related field may be substituted for one (1) year of the required experience.

Possession of a valid California Driver’s License prior to appointment and the ability to qualify for and maintain a County driver authorization.

Possession of license, registration or certification in a related field, such as American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), is desirable.

Knowledge of:

  • State laws, guidelines, and local ordinances necessary to supervise Parks and Recreation Department’s Planning Unit or one or more of the major functional planning units in the Planning and Development Department, such as the County’s General Plan revision, maintenance and implementation; environmental protection regulations such as California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and land use ordinances;
  • Goals, trends, concepts, principles, techniques and legal aspects of community and regional planning, environmental evaluation, parks and recreation, and zoning administration;
  • Implications of physical, economic, aesthetic and social factors involved in community and regional planning;
  • Governmental organizations and operations and community interrelationships;
  • Principles of program and personnel management and training;
  • Advanced research, statistics, and math applicable to planning and property development;
  • Common computer applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, database management, internet, econometric or transportation modeling and geographic information systems.

Ability to:

  • Manage and administer effectively the activities of a functional planning unit including program development;
  • Select, supervise, train and evaluate professional, technical and clerical staff;
  • Organize and conduct planning research and environmental studies;
  • Understand and relate to others the aims, concepts, and principles of community, parks and regional planning;
  • Administer ordinances and laws related to planning projects or requests from the public;
  • Build relationships, work respectfully, tactfully and creatively with the public, boards, commissions, other planning agencies and staff;
  • Manage multiple projects and issues effectively and meet firm deadlines;
  • Facilitate large meetings and community workshops.