Planner Spotlight: Phil Hoge

Current Position: Project Planner in Yakima County’s Long Range Planning Division
Total years in planning: 27 years 
Hobbies: I participate with several local organizations to establish opportunities for human-powered transportation and public open spaces with hiking/biking trails in urban areas. I guess these are “hobbies” because I don’t do it for the pay.
Hometown: Yakima, WA
Favorite Places: On trails, in bike lanes, at brewpubs… 

Why did you choose a career in planning? I trace my interest in planning to a sociology class in high school where my study partner and I chose as our project “Problems of the City,” which delved into transportation issues. A few months later we found ourselves helping to organize the Yakima Valley Chapter of Sierra Club, which focused on establishing zoning in unincorporated Yakima County. Before that was achieved, I moved to Seattle and Bellingham to be schooled in the arts and sciences of local comprehensive land use planning. 

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? Well, I first tested being a planner in Guyana and South Carolina for four years. But the desire to be near family in WA to raise my own family brought me back to WA. Truth be told, humidity and mosquitos also chased me back. 

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on?  We are currently following up on the board’s decisions after completing the county’s 2018 cycle of amendments to the comp plan and development regulations. In 2019 we will be revising our development regulations to implement the comp plan and improve user-friendliness.

What was your first planning-related job? Developing a comp plan for Moxee, WA (“Hops Capital of the World”). I also helped with related community development planning that enabled this small city to receive a ton of infrastructure improvement grants. My first task was framing and dry-walling the planning office in a spare bay of the new sewage treatment plant garage.

What advice would you give a new planner? Know the GMA, your comp plan, your development regulations, and follow the grant’s application instructions.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? Not a single thing. Learning it along the way, as the need arises, has been an essential part of the enjoyment of planning.

If you were not a planner what profession would you likely be in? Probably in the closely-related field of community development, such as developing special-needs housing and public infrastructure.

Do you have any favorite online sources related to planning that you’d like to share, and/or planners (historical or present) that have inspired your work? My frequently-used websites are,,,, and search.

Return to the November/December issue of The Washington Planner