The Prop N Case


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

ORDER GRANTING PETITIONERS’
MOTION FOR ISSUANCE OF
PEREMPTORY WRIT OF MANDATE

by Staff Writer

CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT, UNLIMITED JURISDICTION CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
LAW AND MOTION DEPARTMENT 302

LINDA PETTYE and NORA ROMAN,

Petitioners, No. 502076
ORDER GRANTING PETITIONERS’
MOTION FOR ISSUANCE OF
PEREMPTORY WRIT OF MANDATE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN
FRANCISCO, DEPARTMENT OF
HUMAN SERVICES OF THE CITY AND
COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, TRENT
RHORER, Director of the Department of
Human Services, and DOES 1-10

Respondents.

Petitioner’s Motion for Issuance of Peremptory Writ of Mandate came on for hearing on February 4, 2003, in Department 302 of this court, the Honorable Ronald E. Quidachay presiding. Owen Sellstrom, Stephen Bignham, and Lynn S. Carman appeared as attorneys for Petitioners. Wayne Snodgrass, Deputy City Attorney, appeared as attorney for Respondents.

In this action Petitioners challenge certain provisions of Proposition N, an initiative establishing standards of aid and care for General Assistance recipients. The measure was passed by the voters of San Francisco on November 5, 2002. The Petitioners are two San Francisco residents and citizens who receive General Assistance. The Respondents are the City and County of San

Francisco, the City Department of Social Services, and its Director in his official capacity.

The Petitioners seek a Writ of Mandate ordering the Respondents 1) to continue to enforce the General Assistance standards of aid and care established by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and 2) to refrain from implementing the challenged provisions of Proposition N.

The challenged provisions of Propositions N are sections 1-7. Petitioners assert that these provisions amend and repeal various provisions of ordinances enacted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which set the standard of aid and care for homeless General Assistance recipients. The changes enacted by Proposition N would reduce cash assistance to homeless recipients from $320.00, the grant level set by the Board of Supervisors, to as low as $59.00 by subtracting the value of housing, utilities and/or meals made available to the recipients. Months before the November 2002 election, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considered legislation identical to the challenged provisions of Proposition N and rejected them.

What is disputed between the parties is whether the state delegated exclusive authority to the San Francisco Board of Super- visors to set the standards of aid and care for General Assistance (GA), and if the setting of standards is beyond the local initiative. The language of Welfare and Institution (W & I) code section 17001 is the focus of this query. W & I code section 17001 provides: “The board of supervisors of each county, or the agency authorized by the county charter, shall adopt the standards of aid and care for the

indigent and dependent of the poor of the county, or city and county.”

Petitioners argue that the statutory language of W & I code section 17001 is clear and unambiguous. They further argue that use of the initiative process to adopt GA standards contradicts the language of W & I code section 17001, and therefore that the aid and care standards adopted through the Proposition N initiative are void. They point to the California Supreme Court case Committee of Seven Thousand v. Superior Court which held two factors are critical in determining the limits of the initiative power: (1) the plain language of the state law in question and (2) whether that state law legislates on a matter of statewide concern. Committee of Seven Thousand v. Superior Court (1988) 45 Cal. 3d 491, 500-507 (hereinafter “COST”). In looking at the statutory language, the Court distinguished between statutes which delegate power to a generic “legislative body” vs. those that delegate powers specifically to the “board of supervisors” or “city council” or another explicitly identified agency. Where the specific body is noted by statue, this language “gives rise to a strong inference that the legislature intended to preclude the exercise of the governing body as its agent to administer policies of statewide concern, such matters are placed outside the scope of the initiative process. “COST” at 505.

When the state legislature establishes a statewide policy and delegates exclusive authority to the Board of Supervisors that implementation of the statewide policy is beyond the reach of initiative and referendum. Memorial Hospitals Assn. Randal (1995) 38 Cal. App. 4th 1313. In 1932 the California Supreme Court in San Francisco v. Collins declared that “the duty to relieve the indigent

established by state statutes, is… a matter of statewide interest, in which the City and County of San Francisco is governed by general law, and acts as…an agent of the state.” San Francisco v. Collins (1932) 216 Cal. 187, 191-2

Respondents contend that W & I code section 17001 does not exclusively delegate authority to a particular governmental agency (the Board of Supervisors) and instead adopt the GA standards.
Respondents state the San Francisco Charter grants the voter’s
may adopt by initiative any measure that the Board of Supervisors could adopt, as well as any legislative measure that could be adopted by any other city agency. They also stress the Court must strive to preserve the power of the electorate and resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of its exercise.

The Respondents further contend that the language in
W & I code section 17001 does not limit authority to the Board of Supervisors as it provides that a non-supervisorial body may also set GA standards if authored by the county charter. Respondents point out that if the power to determine GA standards was meant to be exclusively delegated to the Board of Supervisors, the state would not contain this alternative language. Respondents then look to the City and County of San Francisco’s Charter where they again emphasize that the Charter authorizes the voter’s to adopt by initiative everything the Board of Supervisors could adopt.

The Respondents next discuss why the Court must uphold the initiative process if there is any reasonable way to

do so. Where Petitioners seek to annul voters exercise of the initiative process the Court “must begin with the recognition that the local electorate right to initiative…is guaranteed by the California.” De Vita v. County of Napa (1995) 9 Cal. 4th 763, 775.

While it is clear that the state legislature has established a statewide policy to provide for the indigent, Respondents argue that the General Assistance law is a mixture of statewide concern and local issues, and thus General Assistance standards may be established by the local initiative process. Respondents cite Di Vita v. County of Napa (1995) 9 Cal. 4th 763 and Empire Waste v. Town of Winsdor (1998) 67 Cal. App. 4th 714 in support of this argument. Petitioners argue the cases are inapposite. These cases deal with topics traditionally under local control – land use in De Vita and waste disposal in Empire Waste, and the question presented was whether the state regulation in area of traditional local power was sufficient to transform the local entities into agents of the state.

In considering the arguments and reviewing the authorities submitted by the parties relating to the Petition for Writ of Mandate, the Petitioners are on point. It is clear that General Assistance is a matter of statewide concern, and in implementing and administering General Assistance programs, counties act as agents of the state. This is well settled and is illustrated as far back as 1932 in San Francisco v. Collins and other authorities cited by Petitioners. Based on the plain language of W & I code section 17001 and authorities on

point, it is also clear that setting General Assistance standards had been exclusively delegated to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The Court acknowledges Respondents’ arguments and authorities about the importance of the electorates’ power of initiative and the need for the Court to strive to preserve that power and resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of its valid exercise. This was done by the Court in considering each party’s papers and arguments. But is well established that to the Board of Supervisors, that implementation of the statewide policy is beyond the reach of initiative and referendum. Memorial Hospitals Assn. v. Randal (1995) 38 Cal. App. 4th 1300, 1313.

Having fully considered all papers and admissible evidence submitted in connection with this motion and the oral and the oral arguments presented by the counsel at the hearing, the Court makes the following finding:

1.The state legislature has established a statewide policy on providing general assistance to the indigent. W & I code section 10600 et seq., San Francisco v. Collins (1932) 216 Cal. 187, 191-2; and

2.The City and County of San Francisco is governed by general law and acts as an agent of the state regarding the statewide policy on providing General Assistance to the indigent. San Francisco v. Collins (1932) 216 Cal.187, 192; and

3.Pursuant to Welfare & Institutions code section 17001 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is delegated the

exclusive authority to set standards for General Assistance to the authority to set standards for General Assistance to the indigent. Committee of Seven Thousand v. Superior Court (1988) 45 Cal.3d.419; and>br>

4.Before the November, 2002 election the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considered legislation identical to the challenged provisions of local initiative Proposition N and rejected them; and

5.Setting the General Assistance standards is beyond the reach of local initiative. Memorial Hospital Assn. v. Randal (1995) 38 Cal. App. 4th 1300, 1313; and

6.Provisions of Proposition N, a local initiative on the San Francisco November 5 2002 election Ballot, setting General Assistance standards are void.

IT IS THEREFORE THE ORDER OF THE COURT THAT:

The Petition for the Writ of Mandate is GRANTED, and that Respondents shall 1) continue to enforce the General Assistance standards of aid and care established by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and 2) refrain from implementing the challenged provisions of Proposition N.

Dated: 5/8/03 By:___________________
The Honorable Ronald E. Quidachy
Judge of the Superior Court

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