Existing models for large-magnitude, right-lateral slip on the San Gregorio–Hosgri fault system imply much more deformation of the onshore block in the Santa Maria basin than is supported by geologic data. This problem is resolved by a model in which dextral slip on this fault system increases gradually from 0–10 km near Point Arguello to ∼150 km at Cape San Martin, but such a model requires abandoning the cross-fault tie between Point Sal and Point Piedras Blancas, which requires 90–100 km of right-lateral slip on the southern Hosgri fault. We collected stratigraphic and detrital zircon data from Miocene clastic rocks overlying Jurassic basement at both localities to determine if either section contained unique characteristics that could establish how far apart they were in the early Miocene. Our data indicate that these basins formed in the early Miocene during a period of widespread transtensional basin formation in the central Coast Ranges, and they filled with sediment derived from nearby pre-Cenozoic basement rocks. Although detrital zircon data do not indicate a unique source component in either section, they establish the maximum depositional age of the previously undated Point Piedras Blancas section to be 18 Ma. We also show that detrital zircon trace-element data can be used to discriminate between zircons of oceanic crust and arc affinity of the same age, a potentially useful tool in future studies of the California Coast Ranges. Overall, we find no characteristics in the stratigraphy and provenance of the Point Sal and Point Piedras Blancas sections that are sufficiently unique to prove whether they were far apart or close together in the early Miocene, making them of questionable utility as piercing points.

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