Quaternary tectonism in the coastal belt of the Los Angeles urban corridor is diverse. In this paper we report the results of studies of multibeam bathymetry and a network of seismic reflection profiles that have been aimed at deciphering the diverse tectonism and at evaluating the relevance of published explanations of the region's tectonic history. Rapid uplift, subsidence in basins, folds and thrusts, extensional faulting, and strike-slip faulting have all been active at one place or another throughout the Quaternary Period. The tectonic strain is reflected in the modern physiography at all scales. Los Angeles (LA) Basin has filled from a deep submarine basin to its present condition with sediment impounded behind a large sill formed behind uplifts near the present shoreline. Newport trough to the south-southeast of LA Basin also accumulated a large volume of sediment, but remained at midbathyal depths throughout the Period. There is little or no evidence of Quaternary extensional tectonism in either basin although as much as 6 km of subsidence, which mainly occurred by sagging, has been recorded in places since the middle Miocene. The uplifts include folded and thrust faulted terranes in the Palos Verdes Hills and the shelves of Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays. The uplifted areas have been shortened in a southwest-northeast direction by 10% or slightly more, and some folds are reflected in the bathymetry. Two large adjacent midbathyal basins, Santa Monica and San Pedro, show strong evidence of subsidence and slight west-northwest extension (10%) during the same time folding was taking place in the uplifts. The tectonic boundaries between uplifts and basins are folded, normal faulted, reverse-faulted, and strike-slip faulted depending on location. The rapid Quaternary uplift and subsidence, along with the filling of LA Basin, have produced a reversal in the regional physiography. In the early Pliocene, LA Basin was a submarine deep, Palos Verdes and the shelves comprised a northeast basin slope, and the present offshore basins and Catalina Island formed an emergent or shallowly submerged shelf. Since extensional, compressional, and lateral strains are all locally in evidence, simple notions that this part of southern California underwent a change from Miocene transtension to Quaternary transpression fail to explain our observations.