Steve Belzer, a prominent Sacramento real estate lawyer for more than 40 years, died Monday after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 70 years old.
Belzer’s resilient and positive attitude during treatment for a disease that typically kills its victims quickly reflected how he lived his life, friends and family members said. In addition to his legal career, Belzer was a community volunteer who served on the founding board of WEAVE, the local organization that serves women escaping domestic violence.
“The cancer diagnosis was pretty devastating, but he had a really positive outlook,” said Lynn Belzer, his wife.
Belzer grew up in Oakland and came to the Sacramento area in 1963 to study political science at the University of California, Davis. Though he transferred to UC Berkeley to finish his undergraduate career, he returned to UC Davis in 1967 to attend the university's law school. He received his degree in 1970. A year later, he and Lynn Belzer moved to Sacramento, and have lived in the South Land Park neighborhood ever since.
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Early in his career, Belzer picked up jobs working at several law firms throughout Sacramento until securing a position as a researcher and legal assistant for judges at the Sacramento Superior Court in the 1980s, Lynn Belzer said. He worked his way up in his eight years with the department, ultimately becoming the chief research attorney.
The experience he gained in the courthouse helped Belzer later in his career. Though he was known for specializing in eminent domain and inverse condemnation disputes, the variety of cases he was exposed to as a researcher helped him acquire expertise on a broad range of subjects.
“Because he had seen everything, he always had an interesting idea or take on how we could approach a problem,” said Marty Carr, a lawyer who has known Belzer for roughly 16 years and who helped run their own law firm, Belzer & Carr, from 2004 to 2012.
Carr said one of Belzer’s biggest jobs was when he served as an attorney for the Sacramento Regional Transit District, where he helped the agency acquire land needed for its expansion to Folsom.
“This is a big, longtime project,” Carr said. “The work he did on light rail is important to our community. The light rail is an important fixture in our community and he was a part of that.”
Belzer also used his legal skills to help the community as a volunteer. He was one of the founding board members of WEAVE, a nonprofit organization providing resources and shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in Sacramento County. The organization was formed with the help of lawyers, community leaders and women who felt more needed to be done to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“He was a man of action, and when he said something mattered, he was willing to get involved and make sure something happened,” Julie Bornhoeft, chief development and marketing officer at WEAVE.
In addition to his work with WEAVE, Belzer helped form the Land Park Community Association and served on its board. Lynn Belzer said her husband was also very involved at his local synagogue, B’nai Israel.
Belzer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2012. According to Lynn Belzer, he far outlived his prognosis by completely changing his diet and doing extensive research. Belzer would serve as a resource for people who were diagnosed with the cancer and would participate in the annual PurpleStride fundraiser for pancreatic cancer in Sacramento.
In his final years, Belzer spent more time with his family but continued his legal work at Churchwell White, a law firm in downtown Sacramento.
“He was very generous with both his time and resources,” said Douglas White, a managing partner at the firm who worked with Belzer. “He was a great mentor for us with less experience.”
In addition to his wife, Belzer is survived by his daughter Mara Belzer, his sister Doreen Warshal and his brother Bob Belzer, as well as several nieces, nephews and more than 50 cousins.
A public memorial service to honor Belzer’s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday at Congregation B’nai Israel, 3600 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento. Donations in Belzer’s honor can be made to Congregation B’nai Israel and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s PurpleStride fundraiser.
A public memorial to honor Belzer’s life is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 10 at Congregation B’nai Isreal, 3600 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento.