During late Mesozoic and Cenozoic time, three main tectonic episodes affected the Southern California offshore area. Each episode imposed its unique structural imprint such that early-formed structures controlled or at least influenced the location and development of later ones. This cascaded structural inheritance greatly complicates analysis of the extent, orientation, and activity of modern faults. These fault attributes play key roles in estimates of earthquake magnitude and recurrence interval. Hence, understanding the earthquake hazard posed by offshore and coastal faults requires an understanding of the history of structural inheritance and modifi-cation. In this report we review recent (mainly since 1987) findings about the tectonic development of the Southern California offshore area and use analog models of fault deformation as guides to comprehend the bewildering variety of offshore structures that developed over time. This report also provides a background in regional tectonics for other chapters in this section that deal with the threat from offshore geologic hazards in Southern California. ?? 2009 The Geological Society of America.