Planner Profile: Chaz Bates

Current Position: Senior Planner, City of Spokane Valley

Total years in planning: 20

Hobbies: I love to run, read, cook, and play outside with my family

Hometown: Spokane WA

Favorite Places: Spokane, WA; Loon Lake, WA; Washington Coast; Washington D.C.; Cusco, Peru

Why did you choose a career in planning?  I was deep into a BA of Philosophy before I realized I was not going to be the next Kant or Sartre, but I still wanted to change the world. I was minoring in Environmental Studies thinking I’d be a lawyer when I stumbled on an Environmental Planning class. This class, and its professor, opened a whole new door; I truly did not know that it was someone’s job to create places that strived for equity among people and the environment. I choose a career in planning because it allows me to do my part in making the world a better place.

Why did you decide to be a planner in Washington? As a consultant I had opportunities to work in other states, but Washington continues to hold my heart. Also, to be honest I have chosen my career location based on where I wanted to live.

What projects/initiatives are you currently working on? Outside of participating with our regional partners working on providing access to relief and recovery related to COVID-19, I am just about to kick off a Housing Action Plan for the city. I am currently in a holding pattern for the annual comprehensive plan amendments, which includes a city initiated amendment looking to increase housing option near transit.

What was your first planning related job? I was privileged to work for the Washington Department of Commerce, which was called Community, Trade, and Economic Development back in the olden days. It was my job to review input into the database amendments required to be submitted to the state. It provided an awesome overview of what everyone in the state was doing in terms of long range planning. I also had the opportunity to provide technical assistance with GMA. It was a great first job.

What advice would you give a new planner? Practice your communication skills, especially engaging writing. Learn to embed your facts into meaningful stories. I also think it’s important to be willing to do the mundane as well as the exciting, no part is small in planning. Finally, use your newness, as a new planner, new to the field or new to the organization you are in a unique position to perceive improvements.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career? Oh, so many things; I cannot even remember what I did not know. If I had to choose one thing, it would be how patient you need to be to see good plans come to fruition.

If you were not a planner what profession would you likely be in?  Gosh, my head tells me lawyer, my heart say chef.

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?  I love data and I am sure there are great websites out there but I have been a fan of the census’ especially the OntheMap ( I also have access to full reports to ESRI’s Tapestry Segmentation, but there is a less robust but free version at

Return to the March/April issue of the Washington Planner