Randy’s Donuts is coming to Costa Mesa, but its iconic sign may crumble city’s design standards

The iconic Randy's Donuts sign in Inglewood.
Randy’s Donuts is coming to Costa Mesa. But owner Mark Kelegian must figure out how to install an iconic sign without violating the city’s sign ordinance.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The commercial skyline of Costa Mesa’s Harbor Boulevard could soon see an iconic addition, as city officials this week approved plans for a giant Randy’s Donuts sign for a new shop being built south of Baker Street.

The dough is still proofing, however, as the business owner must work out whether he and the city’s planning commissioners can agree on a concept that is large enough to satisfy aesthetic requirements without crumbling the city’s planning and design standards.

Known as a cultural landmark throughout greater Los Angeles, the original Randy’s Donuts sign has stood atop the chain’s inaugural Inglewood location for more than 65 years — its 32-foot height dwarfing the 750-square-foot shop beneath.


The prodigious pastry has appeared in numerous films and been copied and pasted throughout popular culture, including TV’s “The Simpsons,” where it was mashed up with Bob’s Big Boy and unceremoniously renamed Lard Lad.

Lawyer and entrepreneur Mark Kelegian purchased the Randy’s brand in 2015 and operates locations in El Segundo, Century City and Hollywood. Each location features some version of a doughnut sign at or near the store’s entrance.

For the Costa Mesa location, the site of a former Jack in the Box, Kelegian envisioned a structure that would pay tribute to the original roof-mounted dessert in Inglewood. He hoped to open the shop around Thanksgiving.

A mural on a wall outside a residence on Costa Mesa’s Baker Street attempts to unify the vast and ranging stories and struggles of poderosas — strong women — into a message of hope and inspiration.

Oct. 13, 2020

“Anyone who’s familiar with our brand knows our doughnut is our identity — it’s our soul,” he told commissioners Monday, estimating a custom-built confection would cost about $150,000.

But the city’s sign ordinance presented a few challenges. Harbor Boulevard has numerous signs that tower as high as 45 feet, but new signs are to be restricted to 30 feet in height and are asked to be no more than 89-square-feet in area. So Kelegian compromised.


The business owner submitted plans for a 16-foot doughnut atop two 7-foot posts — a pole sign that nearly doubled sign area standards but met the height requirement while providing visibility to drivers.

But the commissioners didn’t relish the idea.

“It just does not look attractive to me,” Commissioner Jon Zich said. “I’m concerned this would end up being an ugly sign along our major arterial. Having a doughnut sign like this on top of a building, at least in my mind, would be preferential.”

Kelegian said he could put the doughnut on the roof, but it would have to be much bigger than 16 feet in diameter — at least 26 feet — which, when placed atop a 20-foot roofline, would exceed height standards.

“It would simply be dwarfed by the building itself,” the owner said.

After consulting City Atty. Tarquin Preziosi, commissioners approved the original proposal with an amendment that would allow Kelegian to work with city staff to determine if a rooftop modification was possible and return within 60 days for review.

Commission Chair Byron de Arakal said he was optimistic.

“Costa Mesa would be exceptionally fortunate to have Randy’s Donuts in the city,” he said. “If they can figure out a way to get it on the roof in a size that doesn’t make it look like a gigantic structure, then great — I’ll let them have at it.”

Cardine writes for Times Community News.