Lee Chapin Sammis
Lee Chapin Sammis (February 14, 2013)
During his 8 years with Coldwell Banker, he was one of the top producers in the nation, having the exclusive listing for the Irvine Industrial Complex. In 1965, Lee completed two of the largest land sales in Orange County history, which still stand today. He was one of the principle real estate brokers to promote and market development around the growing Orange County Airport area, land that was bean fields and orange groves a decade before, endeavoring to lure major corporations and industries south. In 1968, Lee Sammis moved on to become one of the founding partners of the Koll Company, developing and designing millions of feet of industrial and office space in California and surrounding states. In 1974, The Lee Sammis Company was formed to continue his visionary real estate concepts, receiving countless awards for architecture and quality in a boom climate, which fit his “go for it” personality. He expanded into many emerging markets, including the Sacramento area, New Jersey, Northern Virginia, Arizona and Florida, innovating new building types and exporting them to other states. He attained legendary status in the real estate industry, pioneering the joint venture partnership and garden office building concept and was ranked the nation’s 14th largest industrial developer in 1988.
Over his 50 years in the business, he built everything including residential, retail, industrial and commercial, but his favorite part was the “art of the deal” and the creative process of finding the right piece of land and building the right product on it for future growth. Lee Sammis Associates was formed in 1989 in the state of Virginia where his high-tech office parks flourished along the Dulles corridor. He focused on master planned communities and researching market and growth trends, just in time for the economic slowdown of the 1990’s which changed the real estate culture to this day. It has been said that he was “the best land man in the country.” Lee also honed his skill early and was successful in many entitlement battles, often fighting hard to get a project built. He has spent the last decade as an elder statesman, mentoring many and providing well earned guidance and wisdom in his capacity as a trustee and honorary lifelong member of the Urban Land Institute, NAIOP and IOPC, giving speeches and writing analyses of the evolving economic and real estate trends. A common theme was overbuilding and globalism, having gained the unique perspective of a man who participated in the land game during several cycles encompassing his many years in the trenches of real estate development. He always said that he would never retire, and remained to the end a participant in the process.
Beyond his real estate career was his family and hobbies. He was a packrat and filled his homes and warehouses with his collections. He was an antiquarian and connoisseur of nautical history, and he never left the house without the ubiquitous hat, to fit the occasion. He was a true character, prolific writer, inspired correspondent and famous wit and prankster, pulling off some fairly infamous capers in his college years. He had the unusual gift of speaking backwards without thought. His heroes were Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike. He loved Jujubees, sailors wools, words, enchiladas, lead soldiers, licorice, his family, Kipling, fast boats, music of all kinds and Jonathan Winters. He and his wife Joan enjoyed many adventures on their Hatteras “Shazam”. They both loved Hawaii and traveled there often, indoctrinating their children in the passion of Hawaiian music and culture. Lee Sammis was a lifelong animal lover and was famous for bringing home strays or stopping on the freeway with a car full of people to rescue a wandering dog. And his children always knew that every family vacation included looking at property, or as they coined it, “dad’s tire kicking.”
He is predeceased by his extraordinary wife and devoted partner in life, Joan Howard Sammis, his nephew Brett Sammis, father-in-law Nelson A. Howard, and his parents. He is survived by his mother-in-law Elizabeth Buckingham Howard of Santa Barbara, his brother and wife, Don and Fernanda Sammis of Hailey, Idaho, their children and grandchildren, his daughters Diana Buckingham Sammis Brookes, Virginia Lee Sammis, Caroline Howard Sammis and Anne Elizabeth Sammis, son-in-law Robert Jordan Brookes, Jr., and grandchildren Chelsea Beck Sellem and her husband Johan Sellem, Savannah Julia Beck, Sammis Nelson Gayner, Cassidy Caroline Gayner, Joanna Buckingham Brookes, Christina Valentine Brookes, Michelle DeForest Brookes, Alena Lucia Arrigo and one great grandchild, Delainy Joan Léon Sellem, all residents of California and Colorado. He leaves a legacy of humor, creativity and brilliance, and millions of written words. A private family service will be held at an undetermined time.
He requested that any donations be made to the Orange County SPCA at:
Orange County SPCA
P.O. Box 6507
Huntington Beach CA 92615
phone: 714 374-7738 fax: (714) 960-0554