What about Bob?
Street minister evicted, but lands nicer digs
The eviction of 74-year-old Chico street minister Robert “Brother Bob” Taylor from his apartment on The Esplanade, which began two years ago, has had a happy ending (see “Religious eviction?” Newslines, May 3, by Vic Cantu).
As his friend Bob Bruner says, “It’s a good thing that everybody in town loves Brother Bob and Brother Bob loves everybody.”
After living for 27 years in a two-bedroom, second-story apartment at 630 Esplanade across from Bidwell Mansion, Taylor was evicted, with no reason given by his landlady, Morgan Grossman. Though he says his 25-year relationship with Grossman was warm and pleasant with no complaints, he fought the eviction because he believed it was a case of discrimination.
Taylor says he thinks the eviction was partly due to his 39-year reputation as a Christian street minister to the homeless. After his initial eviction notice in 2010, Taylor received an informal, written complaint from Grossman saying he didn’t fit in with the other tenants and was attracting people who looked unkempt or disheveled. (Grossman did not return phone calls by press time.)
This, she claimed in the letter, went against the intended appearance of the 12-unit complex. The apartments border a secluded parking lot that Taylor says is a well-known homeless hangout, but he insists he never allowed the destitute into his apartment. He thinks he’s been found guilty by association. He also believes that his age and socioeconomic status may have been a factor in his conviction, as he is much older and poorer than his fellow tenants, who are mostly in their 20s and 30s or financially well-off.
“Several of them are yuppie types who drive really nice cars, whereas I’m on a fixed income and drive an older car,” said Taylor, while moving out the last of his possessions.
Taylor resisted the eviction and was eventually taken to court. Last month, a Butte County judge ordered him to move out by July 8.
The silver lining is that Taylor’s kindness and generosity have helped him get resettled. He says he’s moving into a neighboring seven-unit complex and that he’ll be paying far less for rent. Better still, the rent includes utilities, which usually ran him an extra $50 a month.
Coincidentally, he has the same second-story, panoramic view of the tree-lined Esplanade and Bidwell Mansion as before.
“I’ve been jokingly telling people that I’m moving back east—160 feet back,” Taylor said, chuckling. “But seriously, my new landlady always buys the best of everything, such as fixtures and the sunken bathtub in my bathroom.”
She’s Lois Kloss, 83, and she has known and been endeared to Taylor since she moved there in 1992.
“Bob is a great man, and I’m happy to have him move in,” Kloss said. “He’s easygoing and has always helped around the house when I needed him.”
Among Taylor’s other advantages will be cable TV at no extra charge and central air conditioning, as opposed to the wall-mounted A/C box he’s been used to. Another perk is that he’s been friends with his neighboring tenants for years.
“A group of us regularly go to the Madison Bear Garden for their burger specials to socialize,” Taylor said.
Dirk Potter, Grossman’s attorney, explained that Taylor had no grounds to fight his eviction because no reason was given for his ouster.
“A landlord has the right to serve a 60-day eviction notice for any or no reason,” Potter said. “Since none was filed, Taylor’s complaint of discrimination was denied by the judge.”
Potter noted, however, that Grossman extended an olive branch by accommodating Taylor’s need for more time to move by giving him an extra month.
“So yes, Taylor lost, but they left on good terms,” Potter said.
In the meantime, Taylor is appealing his eviction on the grounds that it violated his civil rights.
“I still have a soft place in my heart for her, but she wrote me saying I didn’t fit in with the other tenants, so I just want to do what’s right. I grew up in the deep South in the ’40s and ’50s where there were riots and protests against the racist Jim Crow laws,” Taylor said. “My nature is, if you see something wrong, you have to stand up for your rights.”
Taylor is represented by his daughter, Jill Harris, a Chico attorney who was unavailable for comment. Taylor said without her help he never would have fought the eviction because of the up-front fees lawyers normally charge.
Taylor says he’s always tried to help those in need and feels fortunate to have it pay off now. “I’m lucky to have lots of friends,” he said. “I love them, and they love me.”