The spatial variability of Holocene (past 10,000 years) sediment accumulation in Santa Monica Bay (California) was examined to identify controls sediment trapping in a bathymetrically complex coastal embayment and to provide geologic context for the post-industrial sedimentary record and associated pollution gradients. Sediment chronologies based on downcore AMS 14C dates were used to quantify long-term (millennia) accumulation rates in an effort to elucidate particle-transport pathways and sinks. Sediment accumulation rates for the full range of bayfloor environments (50-630 m water depths) range from 22 to 102 mg/cm2/year (15-88 mm/100 year), have an overall mean of 51??21 mg/cm2/year (1??, n=11), and are comparable to rates reported for adjacent borderland basins. Maximal accumulation rates on the Malibu shelf and within a reentrant to Redondo canyon are interpreted to reflect (1) proximity to sediment sources and (2) localized oceanographic and topographic conditions conducive to sediment trapping and deposition. The 14C-derived accumulation rates are 2-10 times lower than rates determined through 210Pb geochronology for the same sites in a related study, revealing that Holocene sediment accumulation has been non-steady-state. Santa Monica Bay is an important sink for suspended matter; averaged over the past several millennia a mass of sediment equivalent to 10-80% of the modern annual river supply is sequestered yearly. Net influx of suspended matter derived from the adjacent Palos Verdes shelf is evinced by a concentration gradient of p,p???-DDE in bayfloor sediments, whereas the distribution of anthropogenic silver suggests transport from Santa Monica shelf to the southeastern boundary of the bay. The results of this study provide new insight to the long-term fates of particulate matter in Los Angeles coastal waters. ?? 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.