Q: I see roadside memorials everywhere. Not to be insensitive, but I heard roadside memorials are illegal. Is this true?

-- Anthony Flores

On state highways, Caltrans does not allow roadside memorials outside of a law regarding victims of drunk drivers. In a nutshell, the law says Caltrans can -- or designate someone else to -- construct and place signs that read "Please Don't Drink and Drive" followed by "In Memory of (victim's name)." There are rules dictating where they can go up and who can ask for someone to be memorialized.

Caltrans spokesman Jose Camarena added:

"We do try, however, to leave any memorials in place for as long as possible because we understand that these represent a lost friend/member of someone's family. Our maintenance personnel will pick up these memorials when they must be removed and try to keep them as intact as possible. We try to "red tag" these memorials at least two weeks prior to removal (we place a red note on them advising removal). We store these memorials for approximately 30 days in our nearest maintenance station and hopefully they are soon reclaimed.

"Thing is, memorials along the road may create hazardous situations for travelers. As much as we would like to allow grieving friends and relatives to place personal tributes to lost loved ones, it really isn't safe to locate them along the highway. Unfortunately, displays of this nature can also be a distraction to other drivers, thereby jeopardizing their safety as well. Consequently, Caltrans does not formally allow memorials to be placed on the state right-of-way."

The county of Kern doesn't have a policy but removes memorials if they get in the way of maintenance work, are a nuisance or are in a place where people shouldn't park, officials there said.

Q: How does the U.S. Census Bureau count people living at the homeless center?

-- Becca Pliler

A: The census counts the homeless community a couple ways, according to local agency spokeswoman Reyna Olaguez. One night in March census workers hit the streets to count homeless residents. They also go to homeless centers as part of their count of people living in "group quarters," she said.

Q: I was wondering if you have an update as to the status of the Bakersfield Gateway shopping center project, including the Bass Pro Shops store?

-- William Rodgers

A: There's still no new news to report, said Bakersfield Planning Director Jim Eggert and Bass Pro Shops spokesman Larry Whiteley. Whiteley said the store definitely will not open this year because it takes a full year to construct a Bass Pro store. The poor economy is what has sidelined the much-anticipated project.

Q: I was wondering if we will be seeing any new stores at Valley Plaza.

We need a GAP Kids as well as a Windsor, Aldo Shoes and more. I have to say we lack variety and therefore find ourselves driving elsewhere to spend our money.

- Janett Mendoza

A: Stay tuned, Valley Plaza officials said. They said the mall is negotiating with some possible new tenants but it's too early to announce anything. The mall sends out press releases when it has a new tenant to announce, mall managers said.

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays and Thursdays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.