Weve all seen makeshift roadside crosses and impromptu street-side altars. They each tell us somebodys loved one died nearby. People often feel the urge to make such places into shrines, but Tuesday night the Paso Robles City Council acted to curb that urge.
Those improvised memorials are spontaneous, free expressions of grief and condolence. Until now in Paso Robles theyve existed in limbo, sometimes tolerated by city authorities and sometimes removed.
But as of Feb. 1, the city will officially allow roadside memorials, although theyll no longer be spontaneous and free. Theyll all look alike, something like no-parking signs only crimson and white. Theyll be installed by city workers, theyll be taken down in two years and theyll cost $285.
Those rules are in the Roadside Memorial Program, which the City Council adopted Tuesday night. Doug Monn, director of public works, called it a compromise between the survivors urge to express grief and the citys duty to provide safe streets.
Monn said improvised memorials can make streets unsafe by distracting passing motorists. I wonder, however, if theyre any more distracting than the citys water conservation signs at the west end of the Niblick Bridge.
Monn also said people installing roadside memorials are in danger themselves from passing vehicles. The new rules eliminate that danger by requiring that city workers install them.
The city will make the memorials. Theyll all say In Memory Of and then the dead persons name. Theyll all be the same size: 12 inches by 15 inches just like my computer screen.
I wonder if thats big enough to accommodate long names, like my Army buddy Walter Grzybowskis. Would that require such small print that you couldnt read it from a passing car?
If you ever want a roadside memorial in Paso Robles youll have to pay the $285 when you order it. And if it gets damaged or stolen, itll cost $285 to replace. After two years the memorial sign will be taken down, and youll be notified you may have it if you want it.
Those rules apply only to memorial signs, not to the other signs we often see at curbside in Paso Robles. I mean the A-frame advertising signs. City Planning Director Ed Gallagher said the A-frame signs we see on Paso Robles sidewalks arent allowed there.
Some might be allowable, he said, but nobody applies, and he doesnt have enough staff to enforce that part of the sign ordinance. I actually dont mind the A-frame signs. I think they make Paso Robles look like a bazaar.
Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.