Malin Burnham Awards. Image from

San Diegans are often asked to vote on the best taco in town or the most romantic dinner spot.

But in a twist on the “Best Of” genre, the nonprofit charity Reality Changers is asking the public to pick the most-admired leaders in San Diego.

The first Malin Burnham Awards — named for the 89-year-old real-estate icon and philanthropist with the motto “Community Before Self” — will be presented May 23 at a fundraising event at UC San Diego.

Voting has begun online in six categories, including most-admired public leader, news outlet, foundation, service group and business.

All nominees come from the public, organizers said, but finalists have to agree to attend the awards ceremony in May.

“As such, nominees will continue to be added to the voting platform as we hear back from them,” a spokesman told Times of San Diego.

One category — most-admired philanthropist — had no options Monday.

“Announcement coming soon!” says the website.

In the news outlet category, only six were listed Monday, including The San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego and the San Diego Business Journal. KUSI was the only commercial broadcast station offered.

In the public leader category, the only elected official listed was Assemblyman Todd Gloria. (Scott Lewis, editor in chief of Voice of San Diego, is among six others named — all male.)

The most-competitive category is for most-admired business or corporation, with 16 listed, including SeaWorld, Solar Turbines, SDG&E and AT&T.

Only four service organizations were listed in that category — BeautifulPB, Kiwanis Club of San Diego, Sierra Club San Diego and Southwestern Yacht Club.

Five foundations were in the running Monday — Alliance Healthcare Foundation, Move Your Feet Before You Eat Foundation, The Parker Foundation, Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and The San Diego Foundation.

Voting opened Friday and lasts through May 12 at

“Participants can vote up to once a day in each category throughout the voting period,” said a statement. (Email addresses are being tracked.)

Asked why voting began before the final nominees were promulgated, organizers said: “We want as much engagement/participation as possible.”

The once-a-day vote process “allows for increased engagement, and hopefully some of the voters will contribute to Reality Changers and the students it helps,” they added.

Winners aren’t expected to make a donation to Reality Changers. But attending isn’t cheap. Tickets are $150 per person.

What do the top vote-getters take home?

“Winners will receive a physical award,” say contest rules. “The winners list will be featured on Reality Changers’ website, social media, print materials, and any other promotional materials. Winners may also be featured in the media.”

Reality Changers hopes to raise $2 million to continue its 16-year-old role in funding first-generation college students in San Diego.

“Over $1 million has already been committed by the following scholarship partners: Anonymous, The Masons of California, The Reality Changers Foundation, UCSD’s Chancellor’s Associates and UCSD Extension,” the group said.