SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Vice President Dan Quayle issued a stern call for law and order Tuesday in the wake of the Los Angeles riots and denounced the ''poverty of values'' in America's inner cities.

Quayle even took a slap at the nation's newest unwed mother, television character Murphy Brown, as a symbol of slipshod morals.

Quayle, in campaign appearances and a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California, signaled that law and order will be a key theme in the Republican strategy for retaining the White House.

Quayle blamed ''the lawless social anarchy'' in Los Angeles on the breakdown of the family and growth of an underclass, which he said has ''been particularly acute for black Americans.''

Before the speech, Quayle visited the Hunter's View housing project, a complex of 267 two-story apartment units the residents are managing with federal training help. Leaders of the black community enthusiastically endorsed Bush proposals to turn project dwellers into home owners.

In his speech, Quayle criticized apologists for the Los Angeles riots, which left 51 dead and inflicted nearly $800 million in damage on homes and businesses.

''Instead of denouncing wrongdoing, some have shown tolerance for rioters. Some have enjoyed saying, 'I told you so,''' said Quayle.

''Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame. Yes, I can understand how people were shocked and outraged by the verdict in the Rodney King trial. But there is simply no excuse for the mayhem that followed,'' he said.

He recited a raft of statistics about rising illegitimacy, unemployment and homicides among blacks.

''It would be overly simplistic to blame this social breakdown on the programs of the Great Society alone. It would be absolutely wrong to blame it on the growth and success most Americans enjoyed during the 1980s,'' Quayle said.

''We are ... reaping the consequences of decades of changes in social mores,'' he said.

''The intergenerational poverty that troubles us so much today is predominantly a poverty of values,'' Quayle told the Commonwealth Club.

''It doesn't help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown - a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid, professional woman - mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another 'lifestyle choice,''' he said.

The comment drew a sharp response from Diane English, creator and executive producer of ''Murphy Brown.''

''If the vice president thinks it's disgraceful for an unmarried woman to bear a child, and if he believes that a woman cannot adequately raise a child without a father, then he'd better make sure abortion remains safe and legal,'' she said in a statement.

Later, arriving in Los Angeles, Quayle said, ''Hollywood doesn't get it. Abortion is not the reason that we have a poverty of values gripping our inner cities.''

Quayle promised ''a tough law and order policy'' in a speech Monday night.

''When you hear the liberal commentators saying, 'Well, this is just a Republican code word,' say, 'Amen,''' he told a fund-raiser in Salinas, Calif. ''It is a code word for safety and to be free of fear in our cities and we ought to be proud of it.''

At the Hunter's View project, where fresh graffiti appeared on newly painted walls, residents are trying to wrest control of their project from the San Francisco Housing Authority.

''We are really starting the ball rolling because all the other developments want resident management,'' said Vera Kennedy. ''You just don't know how much I'm looking forward to (home ownership).''

''We can start doing things for our selves ... and giving ourselves respect and dignity,'' she told Quayle as they shared a couch in her small apartment with her grandchildren.

Quayle flew to Palm Springs for another GOP fund-raising dinner before heading to Los Angeles, where he meets Wednesday with Mayor Tom Bradley, Peter Ueberroth and others leading the city's recovery.