The neon letters of Anchor Trailer Port's sign haven't been lit in years.
Word is they don't work anymore. If lit again, though, they wouldn't fully spell out "Trailer Port." On the top line, only the A, I, L, and a smudge of the E, are left.
It's the kind of sign that's been naturally aged by the elements, a throwback to the easy-living California days of the post-war 1940s that, in some ways, still ring true for the folks living in their mobile homes, trailers or RVs at Anchor Trailer Port.
But residents of the Newport Boulevard nook are learning day by day that all good things about Anchor Trailer Port appear to be coming to an end. Plans are surfacing to convert the park to condominiums, and with a tentative final move-out date of Aug. 24, they can't stop the tide of changes.
But in the wake of the decisions and approvals making their way through various administrative channels are residents who say they feel confused, even cheated. The symbolic anchor in the name drags, they say, leaving them shipwrecked in the situation.
Others know the change was inevitable but just want their fair share of moving costs, per diems and such.
The developers say they hear their concerns and are being generous. City staff has chipped in more than 100 hours toward the monumental task as well.
But there are other residents who are more apprehensive, feeling even more uncertainty. Anchor Trailer Port has been their home for years, and after its closure, they don't know where they might next call home.
Hidden in plain sight
The Anchor Trailer Port is at 1527 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, but to find the nearly 1.9-acre park just shy of the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa border, you'd basically have to be looking for it. Its tucked-away nature belies its position on a major thoroughfare that thousands use every day.
It's a home hidden in plain sight, but that just how the residents like it.
They call their 43-space slice of Costa Mesa a secret jewel in which they can afford to live — and to boot, the living is good. They know their neighbors, their neighbors know them, and sometimes they don't feel the urge to lock their doors.
It's safe and friendly, they say. Moreover, it's surprisingly quiet — especially considering it's next to a street called Industrial Way. When there is noise, it's usually from the adjacent storage facility or boat repair yard.
Most of the residences, whether mobile home, trailer or RV, have their own character. Several have tidy, fenced-in gardens. With a stroll down the park's two main byways, it's easy to spot a hammock, mini barbecue and other custom touches.
Anchor Trailer Port's history dates back to the late 1940s, when it opened as a park for recreational vehicles, according to a city report. Through the decades, it became a state-licensed mobile home park where people of all ages can live.
As of earlier this month, the city said 20 spaces have resident-owned homes, nine have park-owned homes and one is occupied by the on-site manager. Thirteen spaces are vacant.
Within its immediate vicinity, the park is the only area used for residential purposes, though officially it has two different zoning designations, general commercial and general business, and even two different labels on the city's general plan: general commercial and light industry.
IntraCorp, a privately held company, is the proposed buyer of the property. Of its six divisions, four are for real estate development, with offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Newport Beach.
The Newport office on MacArthur Boulevard, which handles developments in Southern California and Hawaii, is overseeing the transaction that, as of this week, is still in escrow. It's IntraCorp's first project in Costa Mesa. Some of its other projects, both ongoing and completed, have been in San Diego, Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Honolulu.