Multichannel seismic-reflection data, sonobuoy seismic-refraction data, and regional geology are used to define the upper crustal structure of the southern California continental borderland and to delineate the characteristics of the main lithotectonic belts of the region. The Catalina Schist belt is separated on its west side from the gently deformed Nicolas forearc belt by faults that have steep west dips and pronounced normal separations. On its east side the schist belt is bounded by a large detachment fault that dips gently to the east beneath the west edge of the Peninsular Ranges belt at the coastline near Oceanside. The Catalina Schist was uplifted from middle crustal depths and exposed during a major event of extensional tectonism that started in early Miocene time in conjunction with about 10° of clockwise rotation of the western Transverse Ranges belt. Part of the uplift of the Catalina Schist could have occurred on the detachment fault, but it is thought to have mostly occurred on the steep faults that bound the west edge of the schist belt. A large amount of uplift is required, and it probably involved strong footwall flexural deformation in the wake of the translating and rotating western Transverse Ranges and Nicolas forearc belts. Extension, accompanied by probable large amounts of right slip, continued in the borderland region during and after middle Miocene time. The later stage of extension was accompanied by rapid clockwise rotation of the western Transverse Ranges of at least 90°. Most of the borderland, including the belt of schist that was uplifted in early Miocene time, was further deformed into numerous basins and ridges during this stage of oblique extension. The primary driving force for the deformation is thought to have been derived from the rapid northwest motion of the Pacific plate after it had become coupled to the Farallon plate system, which had previously been subducted beneath the borderland.