California RV Dealer Wins $8M Settlement with State
Three years after the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) offered Altman’s Winnebago nearly $1 million for its land, the agency ended up paying nearly $8 million.
The payment was part of settlement agreement reached on June 8 between Altmans and Caltrans, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina.
Caltrans will use Altman’s property to widen the Interstate 10 freeway in Baldwin Park.
“We are very happy that we finally got them to see our point of view,” said owner Joe Altman. “Now, we can concentrate on selling RVs.”
Judy Gish, Caltrans spokeswoman, said she could not discuss the details of the settlement agreement because it is not yet finalized.
The agreement was signed by Caltrans attorney Erick Solares on June 8 and is scheduled to be complete in the next two weeks, records show.
“We can’t comment except for that we are working with them to resolve the issues,” Gish said.
Altman’s Winnebago has been a fixture along the freeway in Baldwin Park since 1971. The one-time corporate headquarters will be demolished along with several other businesses and homes for a freeway widening project. Work in the area began in April.
Although Caltrans notified Altman’s in 2002 that it would take the land, no action was taken until 2006, according to court records.
In 2006, it made its first offer, at $953,000, to buy portions of the property.
After Caltrans officially seized Altman’s through eminent domain proceedings in 2007, it upped its offer to $3.86 million – but that offer was only good for the cost of the property and did not include any payment for loss of business Altman’s would see.
Altman’s employs 167 people at its stores in Carson and Colton, and generated more than $61 million last year.
Bruce Cooper, a former owner of an RV dealership who was prepared to speak as an expert witness on behalf on Altman’s, said the timeframe used by Caltrans to assess the value of the company was incomplete.
“The industry fell off the cliff after October 2008, just as the car business and everything else did,” Cooper said. “But the appraisal only focused on the months after October.”
Believing the terms unfair, Altman’s asked for a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin May 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
With just one week before the trial, Caltrans made its settlement offer. The proposed judgement was signed on June 8.