The Costa Mesa Motor Inn is now officially closed after the last residents there moved out last month.
Standing outside the property at 2277 Harbor Blvd., the 1970s-era motel looks much the same. A somewhat-worn piece of paper lashed to the front entrance is one of the only apparent signs of its fate.
"No rooms for rent," the notice states. "Motel is closed."
The final departures bring an end to the months-long effort by owner Miracle Mile Properties to vacate the 236-room motel. Eventually, the Los Angeles-based company hopes to demolish the structure and replace it with 224 high-end apartments.
Ellia Thompson, a lawyer who represents Miracle Mile, said the motel officially closed after the last residents left in November.
"In the end, we were able to make amicable agreements with all the remaining guests and everybody moved on to some other living arrangement," she said Thursday.
It's unclear how many residents were left at the Motor Inn in its final days. In September, Thompson told the Daily Pilot that 13 of the motel's rooms were still occupied.
Thompson said she couldn't say specifically where the remaining Motor Inn residents went.
Some ended up moving to other motels or finding apartments in Costa Mesa, while others relocated to cities such as Anaheim, Fullerton or Santa Ana, said Linda Tang, project manager with the Kennedy Commission, an Irvine-based affordable-housing advocacy group.
"They're just worried about what's going to happen next because rent is so high," Tang said. "Right now, they have a roof over their heads, but who knows? Rent always increases and they're really struggling right now."
Kathy Esfahani, a member of the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition, said it's not surprising that some Motor Inn residents were forced to leave Costa Mesa.
"The reality is what we've been saying all along: that the reason people are living in the motel is they cannot find affordable housing in the city," she said Friday.
Miracle Mile agreed to provide relocation assistance to eligible long-term motel residents, with some packages ranging from $6,000 to $8,000, according to Thompson.
Some residents declined the offer, though. A few told the Pilot in August that the money wouldn't do them any good in the long run, and given their bad credit histories, they can't get a proper apartment and motels are the only place they can go.
In January, the Kennedy Commission and some then-Motor Inn residents filed a lawsuit against Miracle Mile and the city of Costa Mesa over the plan to replace the motel with apartments. They alleged the city had approved the project without providing relocation plans or appropriate assistance for the low-income residents who would be displaced.
"We wanted to make sure that residents were able to preserve the only housing that's available for low-income people in Costa Mesa," Cesar Covarrubias, executive director of the Kennedy Commission, said Friday.
The city, he added, "should be incentivizing affordable housing development."
Supporters of the redevelopment project, however, say it would rid the city of a blighted motel that has long been a hotbed for transients and illegal activity.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for May, Thompson said.
In June, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien issued a preliminary injunction against the project, effectively preventing Miracle Mile from moving ahead with its proposed apartment complex.
That ruling, which has been appealed, did not prevent Miracle Mile from continuing its efforts to relocate or vacate tenants ahead of demolishing the motel. A timeline for the teardown hasn't yet been determined, Thompson said.
"We are speaking to some contractors about what we'll do in the future," she said.
Though she hasn't been able to keep tabs on everyone, Tang said she recently received about 30 donated gift cards — mostly for Target — and was able to deliver them to the children of 11 former Motor Inn families.
"We just want to make sure some of these kids get Christmas gifts," she said.
Anyone who'd like to donate additional gift cards can call Tang at the Kennedy Commission's office, (949) 250-0909.