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California RV Dealer Wins $8M Settlement with State

June 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

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Owners of Altman’s in Court Over Seized Business

May 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Altmans Winnebago President Dave Altman, now deceased, had two pieces of business advice for entrepreneurs: avoid lawsuits and never go to court.

Now his family members are tangled up in a legal battle with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) over the value of the business he started in Baldwin Park, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Caltrans seized Altman’s through eminent domain proceedings in 2007 and offered to pay $3.86 million for Altman’s land along the Interstate 10 freeway. But the state transportation agency offered nothing for the business, which it deemed valueless.

Now the Altman family finds itself in court seeking just compensation for a loss it values at $9.9 million.

“Caltrans has been remarkably oblivious,” said attorney John Murphy, who is defending Altman’s. “This is a business that employs over 167 people and generated over $61 million. That is not a profile that is valueless.”

Erick Solares, a Caltrans attorney, and Maria Raptiz, spokeswoman for Caltrans, declined to comment.

Altmans Winnebago has been a fixture along the 10 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 last week.

The Caltrans project will add two carpool lanes on each side of the freeway.

Although Caltrans notified Altman’s in 2002 that it would take the land, no action was taken until 2007, according to court records.

Believing the terms unfair, Altman’s has asked for a jury trial.

Caltrans seized the family’s flagship business in January, the month that Dave Altman died. Today, the abandoned building is boarded up. It was a site popular with taggers until Caltrans crews cleaned the graffiti.

The company also operates stores in Carson and Colton.

Owner Joe Altman, a La Verne resident, said he is familiar with the area and understands Caltrans’ need to expand the freeway – but he wants to be compensated fairly.

“Every business goes through cycles, and (Caltrans) happened to hit us at the bottom of a cycle,” Joe Altman said. “But for them to say that we are a ‘valueless’ company? Sometimes there are differences in opinion, but this is just shocking.”

Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano said he was sad to see the business close, especially because it had been such an institution in the city for so many years.

“They were a prize winner for us, but they fell victim to the expansion of the 10 Freeway,” Lozano said. “They leave a great legacy, not only because of the fact that they contributed to sales tax, but also to the city as well.”

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