Chula Vista resident Thomas Hom is known in San Diego for his civic contributions.
Although he's now retired after working 50 years in the real estate industry, Hom, 85, continues his passion to serve the community as a volunteer.
In 2010, Hom was the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month winner and was recently nominated for a cultural diversity award by friend Lee Ann Kim.
“He’s a great philanthropist,” San Diego Asian Film Foundation Executive Director Kim said. “Even in his later years, he continues to be a leader by encouraging Asian Americans to stay civically engaged.”
The diversity award was a part of the 2011 Cultural Diversity Partnership between Union Bank and KPBS, which recognizes and pays tribute to local heroes.
Union Bank senior vice president and regional manager for San Diego, Imperial counties and South County Anthony Perez said the yearlong program was launched to celebrate local heroes who enrich the lives of others.
Hom, along with 16 others, was formally recognized with an awards ceremony on Feb. 8 at the Balboa Theater in San Diego.
Hom was the first Asian American elected to serve on the San Diego City Council from 1962 to 1968, during which he also served as the deputy mayor. In addition he served on the California State Assembly for the 79th District for two years.
Hom said that after his political career, he wanted to help reduce blight in downtown San Diego.
After World War II, a flood of new businesses popped up in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, including tattoo and massage parlors, seedy bars and adult bookstores, which continued to gain notoriety for the next 20 to 30 years.
In 1974, business and property owners came together under Hom’s leadership when he petitioned to the City Council for help with revitalizing the Gaslamp area and preserving the district’s historic appeal.
“He always said he wanted to right the wrongs (on city council),” Kim said.
In the 1980s, the Tom Hom Investment Corporation was created to to develop properties to their highest potential and best uses. Since then, it has also completed more than 400 apartment units and two single-room occupancy apartments comprised of nearly 500 units in downtown San Diego.
“After all these years you think back how it is that you’ve arrived at a certain point and you think about the people who helped you,” Hom said. “Time passes and you may not be able to pay them back but it has to be returned in some way.”
Hom is the cofounder of the Jackie Robinson Southeast San Diego YMCA, has been an officer or director for numerous civic organizations, including San Diegans, Inc., and the San Diego Board of Realtors and sits on the advisory board for the Asian Business Association.
“I look up to him, he’s my role model,” Kim said of Hom. “Especially for people of color, there are so few role models out there, and through thick and thin he’s remained tenacious with his commitment for the greater good.”
“We need more Tom Homs,” she said. “In honoring him in this way we are reminded that one person can make a huge impact in San Diego.”
Hom has received several civic recognitions including the Center City Development Corp Director’s Award, Gaslamp Quarter Foundation Award and the Downtown Partners Association Man of the Year.
Hom was born and raised in San Diego and currently lives with his wife Loretta in Otay Ranch.