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Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay dealt a crippling blow Thursday to “Care Not Cash,” a ballot measure San Franciscans passed in November that calls for changes to homeless aid programs. Quidachay struck down changes to one of four programs — the only one targeted by petitioners — addressed by Proposition N. But both proponents and opponents agree that the judge’s ruling might, in effect, jeopardize the whole effort to reform the city’s approach to homelessness. “Effectively it will impact the entire program,” said John Shanley, a spokesman for Supervisor Gavin Newsom, who sponsored the measure, helping propel him to the front of the crowded race for mayor. Poor or disabled homeless adults who qualify for the four aid programs, collectively known as the County Adult Assistance Programs, currently receive $320 to $395 a month cash assistance. If Prop N is implemented, the city would reduce those cash payments based on the value of available services, such as housing and substance abuse programs. Each recipient would still receive at least $59 a month in cash. Linda Pettye, a homeless resident, and Nora Roman, a registered nurse active in public health issues on behalf of poor people, challenged the provisions of Prop N that pertain to the general assistance program. That was the only one of the four affected programs that is clearly mandated by state law, said Oren Sellstrom of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, explaining why the petitioners challenged only part of the initiative. Pettye and Roman sued the city, its Department of Human Services and the director of that department. Citing Welfare & Institutions Code � 17001, their attorneys argued that in San Francisco only the Board of Supervisors, not the voters, can set the standards for the GA program. “The Board of Supervisors of each county, or the agency authorized by county charter, shall adopt standards of aid and care for the indigent,” the section states. “Provisions of a local initiative that conflict with state law in this manner are void,” the petitioners’ attorneys argued in a brief, citing Committee of Seven Thousand v. Superior Court, (1988) 45 Cal.3d 491. The Orange County case found invalid a proposed initiative that sought to block the City Council from imposing a new roadway construction fee. The city attorney’s office defended the voters’ right to establish those standards. In the respondents’ brief, Deputy City Attorney Wayne Snodgrass argued that the city’s charter effectively gives the voters that power by stating that voters can adopt “any measure” by initiative that the Board of Supervisors, or any city agency, can adopt. “The petitioners are on point,” Quidachay read from his written order Thursday. “Setting general assistance standards has been exclusively delegated to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,” the judge said, citing “the plain language” of � 17001. He ordered the city to refrain from implementing those changes in Prop N that pertain to the city’s GA program. That could undermine changes to the other three programs affected by Prop N, too, said Trent Rhorer, director of the city’s Department of Human Services and one of the respondents. If the city moves forward to lower the cash assistance on only three of the four programs covered by Prop N, “it’s very likely that a lot of clients would move over to the GA program” to take home the bigger cash grant, as is their option, Rhorer said. The city attorney’s office is debating whether to appeal Quidachay’s decision, said spokesman Matt Dorsey. “This is a setback for Care Not Cash, but it’s by no means a death knell,” Shanley said. Before voters put Prop N on the ballot, the majority of the supervisors made it clear that the board wouldn’t pass Prop N-like legislation on its own, Shanley said. But in light of Quidachay’s ruling, Newsom plans to approach his peers to ask them to implement the will of the voters now, Shanley said. Newsom intends to bring legislation — akin to the struck portion of Prop N — to the board within the next week or two, Shanley said.

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