Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, 93, archbishop of Los Angeles from 1948 to 1970 and one of the Catholic Church's most conservative and controversial prelates, died Monday at the St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Cardinal McIntyre, who had suffered a stroke in 1976, had been confined to the hospital for several years.

After stepping down as head of the Los Angeles archdiocese in 1970 at the age of 83, he lived as a parish priest at St. Basil's rectory in Los Angeles.

When he was named archbishop in 1948, Los Angeles was in the midst of the biggest postwar boom of any U.S. city.

Demonstrating the financial skills acquired as a young man during 16 years on the New York Stock Exchange, Cardinal McIntyre won wide acclaim as he gave his city the churches and schools needed to match its fast-growing Catholic population.

During his tenure, he built churches at the rate of one every 66 days and schools at the rate of one every 26 days.

When he arrived in Los Angeles in 1948, the Roman Catholic population was 625,000. When he retired it has risen to more than 1.5 million and was growing at the rate of 1,000 a week.

A native of New York City, Cardinal McIntyre left school as a young boy shortly after the death of his mother in order to support his invalid father.

After begining as a runner with the old Curb Exchange he rose to become office manager at a New York Stock Exchange firm, and at the age of 29, after his father's death, turned down the offer of a Wall Street partnership to fullfill his lifelong dream of becoming a priest.

Ordained in 1921 at the age of 35, he spent his early years in New York, where he was a protege of Cardinal Francis Spellman. After service as chancellor of the New York archdiocese, he became bishop of New York in 1941 and archbishop five years later.

In 1948 he became Archbishop of Los Angeles and in 1953 became the fourth cardinal in the United States, the first ever to be elevated from a see west of St. Louis.

In his frist 15 years in Los Angeles, new parishes were created at an average rate of five a year. The Catholic school enrollment rose from 52,000 to 174,110; more than 128 elementary schools and 30 high schools were established; five hospitals were built, and existing buildings were renovated or enlarged.

Although the Cardinal was long revered by both clergy and laypersons, his later years in Los Angeles were marked by disputes stemming from what was perceived as his conservative outlook.

In 1964, with many in his church influenced by the spirit of change symbolized by Pope John XXIII, Cardinal McIntyre was assailed by advocates of social reform, for what they called his long silence on civil rights for both blacks and Hispanic americans.

Critics conceded that no segregation was preached in the archdiocese, but argued that the Cardinal should have preached vigorously in favor of integration.

The liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal contended that the Archdiocese served as a "sad example of the extent to which it is possible to ignore the contemporary developments in the church and to play ostrich when faced with a moral problem."

The Cardinal was known as a strong supporter of Church positions against birth control, abortion and divorce, and was considered an opponent of theological dissent and the modernization of nuns' habits.

In 1969, shortly before he retired, he was embroiled in controversy with a Mexican-American group that claimed his efforts to combat poverty were inadequate. Some members of the group were arrested after a tussle that broke out when they sought to enter a church where the cardinal was presiding at midnight mass at Christman-time.

His successor, Cardinal Timothy Manning, described him yesterday as "among the pivotal personalities of our time who have contributed to the greatness of Los Angeles." CAPTION: Picture, CARDINAL JAMES F. MCINTYRE