Over the Hill

In Paso Robles, roadside memorials will now cost you

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

We’ve all seen makeshift roadside crosses and impromptu street-side altars. They each tell us somebody’s 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 they’ve existed in limbo, sometimes tolerated by city authorities and sometimes removed.

But as of Feb. 1, the city will officially allow roadside memorials, although they’ll no longer be spontaneous and free. They’ll all look alike, something like no-parking signs only crimson and white. They’ll be installed by city workers, they’ll be taken down in two years and they’ll 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 city’s duty to provide safe streets.

Monn said improvised memorials can make streets unsafe by distracting passing motorists. I wonder, however, if they’re any more distracting than the city’s 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. They’ll all say “In Memory Of” and then the dead person’s name. They’ll all be the same size: 12 inches by 15 inches — just like my computer screen.

I wonder if that’s big enough to accommodate long names, like my Army buddy Walter Grzybowski’s. Would that require such small print that you couldn’t read it from a passing car?

If you ever want a roadside memorial in Paso Robles you’ll have to pay the $285 when you order it. And if it gets damaged or stolen, it’ll cost $285 to replace. After two years the memorial sign will be taken down, and you’ll 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 aren’t allowed there.

Some might be allowable, he said, but nobody applies, and he doesn’t have enough staff to enforce that part of the sign ordinance. I actually don’t mind the A-frame signs. I think they make Paso Robles look like a bazaar.