We present new U/Pb ages for detrital zircons separated from six quartzose metagraywackes collected from different Franciscan Complex imbricate nappes around San Francisco Bay. All six rocks contain a broad spread of Late Jurassic–Cretaceous grains originating from the Klamath–Sierra Nevada volcanic-plutonic arc. Units young structurally downward, consistent with models of progressive underplating and offscraping within a subduction complex. The youngest specimen is from the structurally lowest San Bruno Mountain sheet; at 52 Ma, it evidently was deposited during the Eocene. None of the other metagraywackes yielded zircon ages younger than 83 Ma. Zircons from both El Cerrito units are dominated by ca. 100–160 Ma grains; the upper El Cerrito also contains several grains in the 1200–1800 Ma interval. These samples are nearly identical to 97 Ma metasedimentary rock from the Hunters Point shear zone. Zircon ages from this mélange block exhibit a broad distribution, ranging from 97 to 200 Ma, with only a single pre-Mesozoic age. The Albany Hill specimen has a distribution of pre-Mesozoic grains from 1300 to 1800 Ma, generally similar to that of the upper El Cerrito sheet; however, it contains zircons as young as 83 Ma, suggesting that it is significantly younger than the upper El Cerrito unit. The Skaggs Spring Schist is the oldest studied unit; its youngest analyzed grains were ca. 144 Ma, and it is the only investigated specimen to display a significant Paleozoic detrital component.
Sedimentation and subduction-accretion of this tract of the trench complex took place along the continental margin during Early to early–Late Cretaceous time, and perhaps into Eocene time. Franciscan and Great Valley deposition attests to erosion of an Andean arc that was active over the entire span from ca. 145 to 80 Ma, with an associated accretionary prism built by progressive underthrusting. We use these new data to demonstrate that the eastern Franciscan Complex in the northern and central Coast Ranges is a classic accretionary prism, where younger, structurally lower allochthons are exposed on the west, and older, structurally higher allochthons occur to the east, in the heavily studied San Francisco Bay area.