Friday, April 19, 2013

Hollyburn Mews is NOT SOLD OUT!

I received an email this morning from a West Vancouver resident who complimented me on the look of Hollyburn Mews but assumed all the homes were sold.  I told her that although two homes were sold pre-completion, we decided to delay our marketing program until the landscaping was complete, since I wanted potential buyers to see what they would be getting, especially the outdoor patio areas and gardens.

Well, the landscaping is nearing completion and I'm pleased with the way things are turning out. So in the coming weeks, Elaine Biggan, my Sales Associate, will show the remaining five duplexes and two coach houses by appointment.

As Hadani Ditmars noted in her Globe and Mail story, the planning concept which combines duplexes and coach houses on former single family lots in an established single family neighbourhood is innovative, especially for West Vancouver.

Hollyburn Mews has been designed and constructed for households who are ready to downsize, but not downgrade! It is located in the 2000 Block Esquimalt Avenue, one block north of Marine Drive, close to the shops and services of Ambleside and Dundarave Villages and steps away from the West Van Community Centre complex and West Vancouver United Church. The homes range in size from 1810 square feet to 2490 square feet. Careful consideration has been given to the layouts and details, including features to make the homes both accessible and sustainable.

These include stairs designed for chair lifts if required in the future, gas powered 'combi boilers that provide in-floor radiant heat and on-demand domestic hot water,
heat recovery ventilation which offers improved energy efficiency and indoor air quality

The homes feature state-of-the-art kitchen appliances including a remote-controlled dual drawer dishwasher, an under-counter wine fridge, and panelled double door European liebherr refrigerators

I've also included details that hark back to a by-gone era, including dutch doors, wainscoting, porches front and back, and the extensive use of carrera marble.

Architects are Formwerks; the landscape architect is Jane Durante; the contractor is Trasolini-Chetner and the interior staging of the model home is by Decora. Engineers include Nemetz Associates-Electrical, Thomas Leung-Structural, Creus-Civil and Level 5-Envelope. Davies Geotechnical is responsible for the significant extra costs I incurred to ensure the buildings will never settle and basements will not leak!

To learn more about Hollyburn Mews you can visit our website  Or call Elaine Biggan at 604 880 4559 or email me

I welcome your comments and  appreciate your interest.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The SFU City Conversation: Where is big too big?

Where is Big TOO Big?

Vancouver has had periodic debates over heights of new buildings, first in downtown, then in some neighbourhoods like Mt. Pleasant. Successive councils have allowed developers to build taller buildings than zoning would otherwise allow, in trade for developers’ donations of parks, preservation of historic buildings, day care centres, recreation facilities and other public amenities.
But where is the tradeoff inappropriate? That’s the discussion around an interesting proposal on Helmcken St. at Richards St. Brenhill Developments is proposing to replace a deteriorating city social house, with a far larger social residence and other amenities, in trade for constructing a much taller residential tower than zoning now allows.
Public benefits? Too tall? To frame the discussion, we’re very pleased to host Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie, former planning director Brent Toderian, and architect/developer Michael Geller. Then it’s your turn. Feel free to bring your lunch.

So what did I have to say?  Here are some notes I prepared for the event.

“When you’re sitting in the bathtub with the hot water running, how do you know when to shout?”

I first shouted about the scale of some new Vancouver developments a year ago when I wrote a blog posting in response of a number of developments that in my opinion, as an architect and planner…were too big.  But they were often justified because they offered greater affordability or sustainability.

Today’s discussion was prompted in part by Tweets I posted expressing concern with a proposal for a 17.4 FSR building on Helmcken.  For those of you who don’t know what 17.4 FSR means, it’s about 3 times the permitted FSR for Downtown South or 10 times the density of the high rise district in Kerrisdale.

Now, normally I’m the one advocating for more height or density;  today I’m going to be arguing that some developments in Vancouver are being approved at heights and densities that are not justifiable in terms of context, good planning, but rather because they offer exceptional public amenities or affordable housing or both.

Put crudely, the City and other Metro municipalities occasionally approve developments at densities higher than might normally be appropriate because of the substantial CAC’s or other public benefits being offered by or extracted from the developers.

I know that Brent and Raymond are going to dismiss my concerns by assuring me that they would never approve a building that’s too large just because of the benefits…in other words…they would never allow form to follow finance….they will say they first determine an acceptable building form…then they negotiate the $$$. 

I would argue that form should follow fit, not finance!

I will confess my views on this topic are somewhat influenced by Ray Spaxman.  I recall when I was a member of the City’s Development Permit Board Advisory Panel and a proposal came forward around 1984 for a large but very plain rental building complex on the north shore of False Creek. It was argued that it should be approved because it would provide much needed housing for EXPO 86 and beyond.  I recall Jimmy Pattison, then in charge of EXPO, urging us to approve it.

I recall Spaxman questioning why we should approve a rather unattractive building on a prominent site  just because it was needed for EXPO 86 and offered rental housing.  However, if I recall correctly, the Board approved the project, but fortunately it was never built. Today, the site is occupied by 888 Beach, one of Vancouver’s best waterfront developments.

In coming here today, I acknowledge that design and planning are highly subjective.  

I also know that often it doesn’t matter whether a building is 20 storeys or 22 storeys…what matters more is what’s happening at the ground plane or the size of the floorplate…or the detailed design of the building, the materials, the balcony details and so on

As others have suggested to me, the FSR calculation is a blunt instrument.

I agree…but when I see a proposal for a 17.4 FSR building for a site on Helmcken, I start to worry…It wasn’t that long ago I was advocating for 4 or 5 FSR for the area. Have things really changed that much in two decades.

So what’s the rationale for such a high density on what is a City-owned site?  In a somewhat complex transaction, the developer is proposing a lot of social housing units and rental housing and other community benefits.  And on its own, it’s not an unattractive building….it's across from a park, but just happens to be on a small site.  

(I would add that it has a 10,300 sq.ft. floorplate and ten levels of underground parking for about 500 cars)

I had similar concerns with the PCI development at Marine and Cambie.  To my mind, it too was too big. I once expressed my concerns on Frances Bula’s blog and asked, what is the justification for the size of this complex…did the developer pay too much for the land?  Is the city seeking too many amenities?  Is there too much rental housing?

Later that day I received a confidential email from a City planner who said the answer to these questions was yes.  She wrote that she and others in planning were also uncomfortable with the scale and massing of the complex, but had essentially been instructed to make it work. 

Time will tell if our concerns were valid.

Another development that troubled me was the Rize in Mount Pleasant. Again, time will tell if my concerns are valid, but I contend that this building form was driven by the CAC package.  Now, in 20 years there will be other large buildings around it so maybe we won’t care. But for a few years to come, I predict this building will be out of scale and detract somewhat from the neighbourhood.

Two other recent examples are 1401 Comox that was approved at 5 times the permitted FSR since it was rental (I hesitate to criticize it since I admire the architects and developer) but if this had been a condo the proposed density would never have been approved…it was approved because it was rental.

I am also troubled by the new development in the 900 Block East Hastings.  It looks like 12 floors of stacked containers, so I should like it.  But it too is too big for the context.  When I asked the developer about this…a very good developer I might add, he said the city was insisting that he develop and donate, yes donate 70 social housing units as part of the zoning trade-off.  He was also having to build light industrial space.   

Well hello….the site was zoned for light industrial.  This project is over 6 FSR and it may ultimately 
be an interesting building to look at…but now others are now buying sites assuming 6 FSR will be approved for them too. I worry what this area will look like with a parade of 6 FSR developments.

Furthermore, if 6 FSR is considered appropriate along East Hastings, why isn’t it acceptable everywhere?   

Arthur Erickson once said something in a radio interview that is quite germane to this conversation.  He said it was important for any new development to relate to its surroundings.  When the interviewer noted the surroundings will likely change over time, Erickson agreed, but added future buildings will relate to his building and change will happen incrementally. 

I support an incremental approach to increasing heights and density. But that’s not what’s happening…just look around 70th and Granville or along Kingsway…these new developments do not relate to their surroundings…but they each offered a package of community amenities, rental housing, social housing, or cash that the City found too hard to refuse. 

Last year the City received $180 million from developers in return for site rezonings. Many people will say that’s great, it means taxes didn’t go up so much…but I still worry that we’re letting housing affordability, and CAC packages drive building forms that may ultimately detract from the design quality of our city that we have enjoyed for so many decades. 

Form should follow fit, not finance.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

City of Vancouverf Chief Housing Officer

During the 2008 Municipal Election, I remember debating with Geoff Meggs and Ellen Woodsworth whether Vancouver should create a Housing Corporation to oversee development on City owned lands, etc. Having worked with the Vancouver Housing Corp in the 70's (remember Morris Jerroff?) and once being offered a similar position by then Mayor Mike Harcourt (it was never put in writing!) I have often thought about the need/benefits of a Housing Corporation led by a qualified individual.

During the debate, I remember being a bit ambivalent.  If the City hired the right person, who could withstand the substantial political pressure to often do things that didn't make economic or social sense, then it might be worthwhile. But if a Housing Corporation was created with the wrong person at the head, then it could be a very expensive and questionable endeavour.

I recently had a call from the headhunter hired by the City to find the right candidate. No, he wasn't calling because he thought I was the guy for the job. He knew much better!  But he did ask me for names, and I provided a few.  However, in case anyone who reads my blog thinks they're the right candidate, or might know someone, below is the Job Notice.  Good luck....for all of us!

Chief Housing Officer
City of Vancouver
The City of Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia and recognized internationally as one
of the most livable cities in the world. It has an annual operating budget in excess of $1 billion, and a
staff count of almost 10,000. As one of the most d
esirable cities in the world constrained by
geography and faced with a rapidly increasing population, Vancouver faces significant housing
challenges. As a result, providing housing options that are affordable, accessible and suitable for all
income levels
and residents has been identified as a key mandate and poses one of the biggest
challenges facing the City of Vancouver.
The City of Vancouver recently developed a 10 year strategic housing plan with the goal of ending
street homelessness and increasing
affordable housing choices. There now exists an opportunity for
a senior leader with relevant experience to take on the critical and high profile role of Chief Housing
Officer and make a lasting impact on the City of Vancouver.
In this strategic role, th
e Chief Housing Officer’s mandate will be to lead
the various departments
and groups across
the City in the achievement of its housing goals and objectives. This will not be
an administratively focused role; rather, the role will focus on
identifying strat
egic partners and
opportunities, assessing the economic metrics for success of each,
providing high level oversight to
current and potential projects, and seeking out additional
examples and options for reaching our
The CHO will be tasked
with working with a wide variety of stakeholders including developers, not
for profits, and internal City resources to facilitate and execute on opportunities for housing. Over
time, the goal is for the Chief Housing Officer to help define, set up and eventually lead a new City owned housing authority
that can
enhance the ability of the City to
effectively and efficiently deliver
on its housing mandate.
The ideal candidate will
bring experience from areas such as real estate, development, construction
ance, ideally with the private, public and non
profit sectors. They may be a
residential/commercial developer or a senior executive with an organization focused on housing or
land development. Strategic and creative, they will be a
business or professiona
l leader
who is able
to lead, primarily through influence, and build strong, trusting partnerships with external
This is a unique opportunity to lead a broad, high profile and complex portfolio, create something
new, make an impact, and bri
ng creative application.
For more information
, please call Lorraine Scrimshaw,
Barbara Morrison,
Derrick Chow or Lisa
Kershaw at 604
0261 or  416 366 1990  or via email to
To be
considered for this position, please submit your resume and related information online at:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why smaller housing is better for some Vancouver Sun April 13, 2013

Why smaller housing is better for some

Surrey project offering Canada's smallest condos raises questions about minimum suite sizes, need for parking and consumer expectations

Municipal affairs lawyer and former Vancouver social planner and alderman Jonathan Baker can be a very witty guy. I once sought a legal opinion from him after then-Vancouver planning director Ray Spaxman suggested the zoning of a site might not be valid since the zoning line had been drawn accidentally. Baker responded that zoning is like pregnancy; it's a blessed event, whether accidental or not.

Baker was an outspoken alderman back in the late 1980s, when VLC Properties' Jack Poole first proposed building affordable rental apartments on city-owned land on Drake Street. When Poole requested that council relax minimum unit size bylaws to permit apartments less than 320 square feet, Baker predicted these apartments would be little more than coffins for their residents. Twenty years after completion of 600 Drake Street, Concert Properties (formerly VLC Properties) reports that the building - in which 64 per cent of the suites are less than 320 square feet - has one of the lowest vacancy rates in its portfolio.

I thought of Baker at last month's Housing Affordability Symposium organized by the Canadian Home Builders' Association in collaboration with BC Housing and the provincial government. A panel was discussing housing for "millennials," those born after the early 1980s, and developer Charan Sethi of Tien Sher was at the podium telling the audience about Balance, his Surrey project that offers new condominiums priced from $109,900.

They will be Canada's smallest condos, in many instances less than 320 square feet. The pictures he presented illustrated careful attention to the detailed suite layouts; the kitchen area is small but functional with an under-counter washer/dryer. There are also plenty of built-in features and storage areas to maximize flexibility and livability.

Sethi told the audience that despite support from the City of Surrey, and evidence of significant demand from potential buyers, it was difficult to convince CMHC and financial institutions that they should finance the project. However, he persisted and eventually lenders came forward after being convinced there are many buyers willing to trade off living space for affordability and a brand new home. Soon, Balance will get underway, and I am confident it will sell well.

I realize that many people will agree with Baker and worry about the long-term health and social impacts of living in small spaces. This is by no means a new concern. Back in the 1960s, as a young architectural student in England, I learned about the Parker Morris housing standards, which established minimum room and unit sizes for government-funded public housing. When many British planners moved to Canada, they brought these and other minimum space standards with them and they have remained to this day for both social housing and market housing.

While I agree it is important to provide adequate living spaces to social housing tenants, especially families with children, I also think governments should allow smaller ownership units like those being offered in Balance. They can be particularly attractive to first-time buyers for whom neighbourhood cafes and restaurants are part of their living space.

However, in order to facilitate more "micro-suite" projects, I would recommend that municipalities consider a number of regulatory changes.

In addition to reconsidering minimum suite size bylaws, municipalities also need to revise their parking standards. Today, with the availability of numerous car-sharing programs, along with improved transit and cycling infrastructure, many people are choosing not to own a car. At Balance and an increasing number of condominium developments around Metro, it is not mandatory to buy a parking space with a unit, thus saving buyers tens of thousands of dollars.

Furthermore, at a time when we are trying to reduce greenhouse gases and traffic congestion, if anything, municipalities should be establishing maximum requirements, not minimum requirements.
The one exception is for visitor parking. Even if residents do not own cars, their visitors might. To avoid neighbourhood parking problems, it is important to ensure provision of adequate visitor parking, at least for the foreseeable future.

Municipalities also should reconsider how they establish the various permit fees charged to developers. Today, while some fees are based on building area or construction cost, most are calculated on a per-unit basis. This effectively penalizes developers and consumers of smaller suites. By calculating fees on overall building area, rather than the number of units, municipal governments can further encourage development of more affordable units.

The Housing Affordability Symposium featured both panel presentations and group discussions in a workshop setting. During these discussions, a number of participants suggested that another way to create more affordable housing is to reduce consumer expectations and demand more modest finishes and features in new homes.

For example, they asked whether new units always had to have granite and marble countertops and stainless steel appliances. Do two-bedroom apartments really need two bathrooms?

The reality is that my generation, and those who preceded me, rarely grew up in homes with granite and marble countertops. Similarly, many three-bedroom homes were less than 1,000 square feet with just one bathroom. Therefore, I find it ironic that at the same time as we decry the high cost of housing, it is difficult to find new homes with arborite countertops, or new houses less than 1,000 square feet.

I hope municipal governments will start to make the necessary changes to facilitate the development of smaller and more modest homes around Metro. And don't worry, they won't be like coffins!

Michael Geller is a Vancouver-based architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer. He also serves on the adjunct faculty of SFU's Centre for Sustainable Community Development. His blog can be found at www.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Promised Land? An interesting perspective on increased development activity on the North Shore

Whenever I talk to the media and see the final story or video clip, I invariably regret about half of what I said!  Often I wish reporters would write down what I mean, rather than what I say!

That was the case with the following story that appeared in yesterday's North Shore News.  For example, while I was the one who raised the topic of Community Amenity Contributions and how they should be calculated, I wish I had made it clearer that I am not necessarily opposed to paying CAC's, or even the amount.

My concern, and that of most people in the development industry, is with the uncertainty that results from trying to calculate CAC's based on the anticipated 'land lift' following rezoning, rather than a pre-determined amount.  The problem with this approach is that one doesn't know what the CAC will be until well into the design and rezoning process...and as noted, markets change...but the CAC is fixed prior to rezoning.

Developers are also troubled by the fact that these requirements are deemed voluntary requirements. Why? Because there's some question as to whether they are legal!

There were a few other things that I wish I hadn't said, especially since the reporter Jeremy Shepherd was 100% accurate in quoting me!

Here's his story!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Wonderful April Fool's Day pranks from the past

It's April 1st. Over the years I have undertaken a number of pranks, but my two favourites were tied to the marketing of Elm Park Place, a condominium project I developed in the 90's at Larch and West 41st in Kerrisdale.

In 1998, Prince Charles came to Vancouver, so I paid for an 'advertorial' in the Courier that reported that the Prince was rumoured to have purchased a Kerrisdale condominium near a park. A number of excited purchasers contacted me to ask whether he had in fact bought at Elm Park place. However, my favourite call was from a purchaser who was furious that I would sell to a member of the royal family without consulting other purchasers. "How are we going to manage with all the extra security?" she wanted to know.
The following year I wrote an 'advertorial' that the provincial government had secretly approved a SkyTrain extension along West 41st with a station at Larch and West 41st. A surprising number of people were fooled, including one of my daughter's Crofton House classmates who brought in a copy of the Courier as her 'show and tell' story.

"There's going to be a SkyTrain to Crofton House" she exclaimed. My daughter had to explain that it was just one of her dad's April Fools' Day jokes. Unfortunately, the girl had never heard of April Fools' Day.While some people get quite upset about April Fools' Day pranks, I think they can be wonderful. However, I must confess I was fooled a couple of years ago by the following story that appeared in the Vancouver Sun on April 1 2010

City considers building a shelter for homeless chickens

Now that some homeowners are allowed to keep the birds, officials expect some to be abandoned when reality sets in

Heather Havens of Surrey holds  Zilla, one of her two hens.
VANCOUVER - Anticipating a wave of buyers’ remorse, city staff are recommending the city build a special shelter for hens they expect will be abandoned by owners having second thoughts.
The 36-page report to city council details every change the city will have to make before backyard egg farmers will be allowed to set up shop. In March 2009, council lifted a 30-year prohibition on keeping urban hens and directed staff to develop the guidelines.

The report deals with everything from the decibel levels of crowing roosters, which will not be allowed, to pest control techniques to ward off marauding rats hunting for chicken feed.
Apartment dwellers will not be allowed to keep chickens on their patios, as the guidelines say only single- and multi-family homes will be allowed to house hens.

The report recommends the city spend $20,000 of the community services budget to build a facility at the Vancouver Animal Control shelter to house seized or abandoned hens.
“Even now we get the odd hen or rooster in the shelter,” said Tom Hammel, the city’s chief licence inspector. “So there will be more.”

To keep the numbers down, as well as reduce the risk of avian flu, the report says residents may keep no more than four hens, which must be older than four months.
“We don’t want people buying cute fuzzy chicks on impulse and then finding out they don’t want them,” said Hammel.

Jordan Maynard, manager of Southlands Farm in Vancouver, says some urban chicken farmers may get fed up with their hens if they buy the wrong breed.

“If they get birds that are bred for meat they won’t be suitable for the backyard. Those birds are pathetic. They don’t walk properly and they grow too fast and they will just lay on their side and not lay eggs,” he said.

Also, hens usually stop laying eggs after about six years and residents may not want to kill them, but they may not want to keep them either, he said. “It depends on whether people come to think of them as pets.”
People who tire of their chickens won’t have a problem finding them new homes, Maynard said. “I’ve heard that someone on Saltspring Island is starting a retirement home for chickens.”

Hammel said the city does not recommend people give away their hens to large chicken farms because of the risk of spreading avian flu to commercial stocks.

The report includes guidelines to minimize odour, stating that coops must only be kept in a back or side yard, and that owners must remove the manure and keep the food and water inside the coop.

Those who want to kill their hens must take them to a veterinarian or farm for slaughter.

The guidelines will go before the planning and environment committee next Thursday. Should the committee approve, the report will go to public hearing May 18.

Health concerns and noise complaints were the main reasons urban chickens were not allowed in the past. But now the city says chickens have important environmental benefits.

The about-face comes as the city strives to be the greenest in the world. According to the report, by providing eggs for urban residents and fertilizer for urban gardens, backyard hens contribute to local food production, which “reduces the city’s carbon footprint.”

Hammel said there will be an online registry that owners must sign so the city can locate the chickens in case of an outbreak of disease. There will be no licence fee to keep the birds.

After reading this story I had to contact Patricia Graham at the Vancouver Sun to see if it was a delayed prank or a real story. After checking, she wrote back to say it was for real!

The following wonderful pranks are from a list of the 100 all time best April Fool's Day pranks

3: Instant Color TV
1962: In 1962 there was only one tv channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their tv screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process. Thousands of people were taken in. Regular color broadcasts only commenced in Sweden on April 1, 1970.

10: Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
1976: The British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

20: The 26-Day Marathon
1981: The Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. Reportedly Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

#38: Operation Parallax
1979: London's Capital Radio announced that Operation Parallax would soon go into effect. This was a government plan to resynchronize the British calendar with the rest of the world. It was explained that ever since 1945 Britain had gradually become 48 hours ahead of all other countries because of the constant switching back and forth from British Summer Time. To remedy this situation, the British government had decided to cancel April 5 and 12 that year. Capital Radio received numerous calls as a result of this announcement. One employer wanted to know if she had to pay her employees for the missing days. Another woman was curious about what would happen to her birthday, which fell on one of the cancelled days.
#43: An Interview with President Carter

2001: Michael Enright, host of the Sunday Edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corpation's radio program This Morning, interviewed former President Jimmy Carter on the air. The interview concerned Canada's heavily subsidized softwood lumber industry, about which Carter had recently written an editorial piece in The New York Times. The interview took a turn for the worse when Enright began telling Carter to speed up his answers. Then Enright asked, "I think the question on everyone's mind is, how did a washed-up peanut farmer from Hicksville such as yourself get involved in such a sophisticated bilateral trade argument?" Carter seemed stunned by the insult. Finally he replied, "Excuse me? A washed-up peanut farmer? You're one to talk, sir. Didn't you used to be on the air five times a week?" The tone of the interview did not improve from there. Carter ended up calling Enright a "rude person" before he hung up. Enright then revealed that the interview had been fake. The Toronto comedian Ray Landry had been impersonating Carter's voice. The interview generated a number of angry calls from listeners who didn't find the joke funny. But the next day the controversy reached even larger proportions when the Globe and Mail reported the interview as fact on their front pages. The editor of the Globe and Mail later explained that he hadn't realized the interview was a hoax because it was "a fairly strange issue and a strange person to choose as a spoof."

#58: Portable Zip Codes
2004: National Public Radio's All Things Considered announced that the post office had begun a new 'portable zip codes' program. This program, inspired by an FCC ruling that allowed phone users to take their phone number with them when they moved, would allow people to also take their zip code with them when they moved, no matter where they moved to. It was hoped that with this new program zip codes would come to symbolize "a citizen's place in the demographic, rather than geographic, landscape." Assistant Postmaster General Lester Crandall was quoted as saying, "Every year millions of Americans are on the go: People who must relocate for work or other reasons. Those people may have been quite attached to their original homes or an adopted town or city of residence. For them this innovative measure will serve as an umbilical cord to the place they love best."

#93: Eiffel Tower Moves
The Parisien stunned French citizens in 1986 when it reported that an agreement had been signed to dismantle the Eiffle Tower. The international symbol of French culture would then be reconstructed in the new Euro Disney theme park going up east of Paris. In the space where the Tower used to stand, a 35,000 seat stadium would be built for use during the 1992 Olympic Games.

#95: Chunnel Blunder
In 1990 the News of the World reported that the Chunnel project, which was already suffering from huge cost overruns, would face another big additional expense caused by a colossal engineering blunder. Apparently the two halves of the tunnel, being built simultaneously from the coasts of France and England, would miss each other by 14 feet. The error was attributed to the fact that French engineers had insisted on using metric specifications in their blueprints. The mistake would reportedly cost $14 billion to fix.

100: The British Postal Address Turnabout
In 1977 the BBC gave airtime to Tom Jackson, General Secretary of the British Union of Post Office Workers. Mr. Jackson was up in arms about a recent proposal that the British mail adopt the German method of addressing envelopes in which the house number is written after the name of the road, not before it (i.e. Downing Street 10, instead of 10 Downing Street). Jackson spoke at great length about the enormous burden this change would place upon postal employees, insisting that "Postal workers would be furious because it would turn upside-down the way we have learned to sort." His comments elicited an immediate reaction from the audience, many of whom phoned up to voice their support for Jackson's campaign. What the audience didn't realize was that there were no plans to change the way the British addressed their mail. Mr. Jackson's diatribe was an elaborate April Fool's Day joke.