MORNING MEMOS: Los Angeles, rental market, commentary (Harold Meyerson), "What to do about L.A.'s sky-high rents"; San Francisco, "Bay Area is one of the least affordable rental markets in the nation"; U.S. Postal Service, "Postal workers union to protest Staples-USPS partnership in 27 states"; Los Angeles World Airports, "Audit questions airport's LAPD spending" ....

***Various items this morning from across the spectrum of politics and/or public policy....

* The Argonaut:  "Audit questions airport's LAPD spending"

* Los Angeles Times (Op-Ed: Harold Meyerson):  "What to do about L.A.'s sky-high rents" - "A boost in minimum wage would allow residents to use a smaller portion of their income on rent -- in a city that ranks first in the U.S. in a comparison of median income and median rent."

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Bay Area is one of the least affordable rental markets in the nation"

* Los Angeles Times:  "Postal workers union to protest Staples-USPS partnership in 27 states"


SACRAMENTO: California politics, Bay Area, Los Angeles County, statewide elections: "Bay Area advantage -- Is being from LA a statewide political liability?" ....

* Capitol Weekly:  "Bay Area advantage -- Is being from LA a statewide political liability?" - From Capitol Weekly:

Los Angeles County is home to more than 26% of all Californians. But when it comes to running for statewide office, being from Los Angeles may be more of an obstacle than a political advantage. While the people may be in Los Angeles, the largest chunk of the state’s voters – those who actually cast ballots — come from the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can see the numbers here. 

The gap between Los Angeles and the Bay Area is even more pronounced in primary elections, and more so among Democrats.

Of all nine statewide elected officials, including California’s two U.S. Senators, only Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Controller John Chiang hail from Los Angeles.

The Bay Area advantage can help explain why Board of Equalization member Betty Yee holds an early edge over Assembly Speaker John Pérez in the race for state controller. It may also explain why seven of the nine Democrats who hold statewide office in California hail from the Bay Area.

“There’s more of a Northern California bias in the overall electorate,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll.

In contested Democratic primaries in 2010, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom crushed Janice Hahn, a scion of a popular Los Angeles political family, in the race for lieutenant governor. Kamala Harris, who was serving as San Francisco District Attorney, bested a crowded Democratic field, including two L.A.-based legislators and the city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo. That same year, Northern Californian Dave Jones crushed Southgate’s Hector De La Torre in the Democratic contest for state insurance commissioner.

Of all nine statewide elected officials, including California’s two U.S. Senators, only Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Controller John Chiang hail from Los Angeles.

Adding to the Bay Area advantage is the region’s higher number of voters who cast ballots by mail.............................


POLITICS/ENVIRONMENT: California Environmental Protection Agency, new data, most polluted areas, Fresno at top of the list: "Fresno ranks No. 1 on California pollution list" ....

***Following up on earlier item noted here (California Environmental Protection Agency, new map, state's most polluted census tracts)....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Fresno ranks No. 1 on California pollution list" - "New Cal/EPA maps show that Fresno contains eight of the 10 areas most heavily burdened by pollution. But the data tell just part of the story." - From the LAT:

FRESNO — The state's new effort to map the areas most at risk from pollution features hot spots up and down California. But nowhere are there more of the worst-afflicted areas than in Fresno — in particular a 3,000-person tract of the city's west side where diesel exhaust, tainted water, pesticides and poverty conspire to make it No. 1 on California's toxic hit list.

"I'm looking at this map, and all I see is red. We're right here," Daisy Perez, a social worker at the Cecil C. Hinton Community Center, said as she located the center of the red areas that represented the top 10% most-polluted census tracts in California. "It's so sad. Good people live here."

Pollution has long plagued the Central Valley, where agriculture, topography and poverty have thwarted efforts to clean the air and water. The maps released this week by the California Environmental Protection Agency show that eight of the state's 10 census tracts most heavily burdened by pollution are in Fresno.

For residents of the state's worst-scoring area, statistics tell only part of the story of what it is like to live there.

It's a place where agriculture meets industry, crisscrossed by freeways. The city placed its dumps and meat-rendering plants there decades ago. Historically, it was the heart of the city's African American community. The Central Valley's civil rights movement was centered in its churches. People referred to it as West Fresno, which meant a culture as well as a place. These days, young community workers call it by its ZIP Code — the "93706 Zone."

It's home to a Latino community — the children and grandchildren of migrant workers; to Hmong and Cambodian farmers; and to a minority African American community that includes those desperate to leave, and an old guard of those who say they will never abandon home.............................


LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Bay Area): San Francisco, shortage of affordable apartments, evictions, violations of city housing and zoning laws, city lawsuit vs. landlords: "S.F. city attorney sues 2 landlords over short-term rentals"; also, "San Francisco landlords sued over renter evictions" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "S.F. city attorney sues 2 landlords over short-term rentals" - From the Chronicle:

City Attorney Dennis Herrera jumped into the war over San Francisco's dwindling housing supply and booming short-term rentals Wednesday, accusing two property owners of illegally converting residential buildings into pricey tourist hotels after evicting longtime tenants, two of them disabled.

The owners, one in Pacific Heights and the other in North Beach, violated city housing and zoning laws and added to the worsening shortage of affordable rental space, Herrera's office said in its first two lawsuits on the issue. The suits seek thousands of dollars in penalties, along with court orders prohibiting the short-term rental practices.

"Illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock" are contributing to "a housing crisis of historic proportions," Herrera said in a statement. To illustrate, the suits cited the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals in San Francisco advertised on popular websites: 6,225 on Airbnb, 1,413 on VRBO and 1,351 on HomeAway, VRBO's parent company. Herrera said the property owners in both suits sought customers on those sites, but he did not accuse the companies of wrongdoing.

San Francisco bans residential rentals of less than 30 days unless the hosts have a conditional use permit, which Herrera said was not sought by these owners.

The city Planning Department is investigating dozens of complaints that property owners throughout San Francisco have illegally converted homes and apartments to hotels. The department has assessed some fines, but Wednesday's actions by Herrera threaten stiffer penalties - up to $200 per day of violations, forfeiture of any illegal profits, and other sanctions...............................


* Sacramento Bee (AP):  "San Francisco landlords sued over renter evictions"


POLITICS (National): Internal Revenue Service, bonuses to IRS employees who failed to pay taxes: "IRS workers who failed to pay taxes got bonuses, report says" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "IRS workers who failed to pay taxes got bonuses, report says" - "The disclosure that 1,146 employees who had been disciplined for not paying taxes received a total of $1.1 million in bonuses draws bipartisan outrage." - From the LAT:

WASHINGTON — It's not difficult to get a bonus if you work for the Internal Revenue Service — even if you haven't paid your own taxes. The IRS handed out a total of nearly $1.1 million in bonuses in a 27-month period to more than 1,146 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay taxes, according to an inspector general's report. "This is outrageous," said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas). "The IRS is essentially telling its employees: Break the law and we will reward you."

The employees were among more than 2,800 at the agency who received performance awards within one year of disciplinary action, such as suspensions or written reprimands for drug use, filing fraudulent time sheets or other misconduct, the report found.

Overall, about two-thirds of IRS employees received cash bonuses and other performance awards, such as extra time off, in 2011 and 2012, the report said. But it was the payments to agency workers who had been disciplined for "substantiated federal tax compliance problems" that drew bipartisan outrage Wednesday. Those employees also received awards of more than 10,000 hours of extra time off and 69 faster-than-normal pay grade increases from Oct. 1, 2010, to the end of 2012.

"How can we expect the American people — many of whom are struggling to make ends meet — to trust their government when they learn that the very agency charged with collecting their tax dollars is rewarding employees who haven't paid theirs?" Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) wrote to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The performance awards did not violate the law, said J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The IRS' contract with the National Treasury Employees Union states that disciplinary action or investigations do not preclude an employee from receiving a bonus or other performance award unless it would damage the integrity of the agency. But George said that "providing awards to employees who have been disciplined for failing to pay federal taxes appears to create a conflict with the IRS's charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration."

The IRS already has been under intense criticism since agency officials said last year that employees improperly targeted applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. The bonuses now add "bad, bad news for the agency's public image," said Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union............................