Mayor Marion Barry named a former director of the California Department of Social Services yesterday to head the District's massive Department of Human Services.

The new Human Services director, Marion Jerome Woods, 55, served as the top official at the California social services agency for more than eight years during the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Since 1983, Woods has operated his own management consulting firm.

His appointment will go to the D.C. Council for confirmation.

"Mr. Woods is a dedicated professional with a distinguished 20-year record of management experience in policy formulation and program development in the field of social services," Barry said in a statement.

"He combines commitment to poor people with outstanding professional management expertise," Barry said.

California's social services department is the largest state social services operation in the nation, and Woods' tenure there is expected to serve him well as he assumescommand of the problem-plagued department here.

Human Services is the city's largest agency, spending $857 million, roughly one-third of the District's budget.

The department has 6,047 employes, serves more than 250,000 city residents and has responsibility for such thorny issues as homelessness, public health and mental health services.

Also yesterday, Barry renamed Byron Marshall as deputy director of the agency.

Marshall had been serving as acting director since January, when the director, David E. Rivers, resigned to become secretary of the District. Since then, Rivers has become a central figure in a wide-ranging federal probe of District government contracting procedures.

During his years as California's social services chief, according to city officials, Woods made sweeping and far-reaching changes in the agency's public assistance operations. He initiated a program that in four years reduced the welfare error rate from 17 percent to 3.5 percent.

Woods' cost-control measures during the first year of his administration are credited with saving the state about $31 million in its food stamp and Aid to Families With Dependent Children programs. Overall, the error rate for the AFDC program dropped by more than a third during his time as director, resulting in a total savings of $217 million.

Woods is expected to assume his $68,500 post July 1, perhaps as acting director if the D.C. Council has not yet acted to confirm him.