Strain accumulation in tectonically active regions is generally a superposition of the effects of background tectonic loading, steady-state dislocation processes, such as creep, and transient deformation. In the San Francisco Bay region (SFBR), the most uncertain of these processes is transient deformation, which arises primarily in association with large earthquakes. As such, it depends upon the history of faulting and the rheology of the crust and mantle, which together determine the pattern of longer term (decade-scale) post-seismic response to earthquakes. We utilize a set of 102 GPS velocity vectors in the SFBR in order to characterize the strain rate field and construct a physical model of its present deformation. We first perform an inversion for the continuous velocity gradient field from the discrete GPS velocity field, from which both tensor strain rate and rotation rate may be extracted. The present strain rate pattern is well described as a nearly uniform shear strain rate oriented approximately N34??W (140 nanostrain yr-1) plus a N56??E uniaxial compression rate averaging 20 nanostrain yr-1 across the shear zone. We fit the velocity and strain rate fields to a model of time-dependent deformation within a 135-kin-wide, arcuate shear zone bounded by strong Pacific Plate and Sierra Nevada block lithosphere to the SW and NE, respectively. Driving forces are purely lateral, consisting of shear zone deformation imposed by the relative motions between the thick Pacific Plate and Sierra Nevada block lithospheres. Assuming a depth-dependent viscoelastic structure within the shear zone, we account for the effects of steady creep on faults and viscoelastic relaxation following the 1906 San Francisco and 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakes, subject to constant velocity boundary conditions on the edges of the shear zone. Fault creep is realized by evaluating dislocations on the creeping portions of faults in the fluid limit of the viscoelastic model. A priori plate-boundary(PB)-parallel motion is set to 38 mm yr -1. A grid search based on fitting the observed strain rate pattern yields a mantle viscosity of 1.2 ?? 1019 Pa s and a PB-perpendicular convergence rate of ???3 mm yr-1. Most of this convergence appears to be uniformly distributed in the Pacific-Sierra Nevada plate boundary zone. ?? 2005 RAS.