Angel Food Donuts Sign | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by L.A. Conservancy

Angel Food Donuts Sign

In 2014, Franchisee Frontier Restaurant Group (applicant is Tom Carpenter of Newport Beach, CA) sought approval from the Long Beach Planning Commission to remove the giant donut signage and raze the two commercial buildings on the site to make way for a new one-story, 1,889 square foot Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. The Canton, Massachusett's-based franchise had previously announced it would open 150 stores throughout Southern California beginning in 2015. 

At the February 6, 2014 meeting of the Planning Commission, the franchise operator for a proposed Dunkin' Donuts announced plans to change the project, agreeing to save and re-purpose the Angel Food Donuts Sign, stating, "the last thing we want to do is be viewed as the guys that killed the doughnut.”

 

The giant donut signage atop the former Angel Food Donuts is threatened with removal to make way for a new location of Dunkin’ Donuts. The franchisee, Frontier Restaurant Group,  is proposing to demolish the two onsite structures, a liquor store and the former Angel Food Donuts, and construct a new one-story, 1,889 square foot fast food restaurant in its place.  As part of the proposed development, the franchisee plans to donate the giant donut signage to the city of Long Beach. 

As reported in the Orange County Register, franchisee Frontier Restaurant Group rejected a proposal to include the big donut in its design of the new Dunkin’ Donuts for the site, stating they “didn’t want the doughnut structure because the snack no longer measures up to its core menu.”

However, many Long Beach residents don’t want to see the character of their neighborhood changed with the loss of the distinctive donut signage, which has been a part of the streetscape for over fifty years.

Long Beach has other Angel Food Donuts' locations, each featuring a similar building and giant donut perched on a sign. While they are similar, others (for example, at 3657 Santa Fe Avenue and 3860 Long Beach Boulevard) appear to have more distinctive buildings with architectural detailing. While we welcome the reuse of the existing building, a new Dunkin' Donuts building can also occur while retaining and incorporating the existing signage.

Some other buildings in Los Angeles County featuring donuts include The Donut Hole in La Puente, built in 1968, and Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, built in 1953.  

 

 

 

Both the Los Angeles Conservancy and local advocacy group Long Beach Heritage believed that an obvious "win-win" solution could be readily achieved, particularly because the site’s new operator is a donut chain.

Other chains and franchises have successfully repurposed original signs and buildings for new uses -- including Dunkin' Donuts in other parts of the country. This site offers full flexibility for Dunkin' Donuts to build a new store that includes all their desired amenities while maintaining and repurposing the landmark Angel Food Donuts Sign.

The owner of the property had previously offered to donate the sign to the City of Long Beach whereby it would be placed in storage. This would not have been an appropriate method of preservation or material conservation, as the donut would have been unlikely to ever return again as a sign for the public to enjoy, nor is the City equipped to store, care for, or maintain this type of sign long-term. 

The Conservancy believes the Angel Food Donuts Sign is historic and should be treated as such as part of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In 2009, the City of Long Beach specifically identified the Angel Food Donuts Sign as part of its Historic Context Statement, stating, "[N]ow valued not only for their implicit humor but also as cultural artifacts, programmatic architecture when encountered should be considered significant, even though it might be altered."

The project required discretionary approval for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) by the City of Long Beach. We urged the City to consider a preservation alternative that retains and reuses the sign prior to granting the CUP.