We synthesized data from geologic maps, wells, seismic-reflection profiles, potential-field interpretations, and low-temperature thermochronology to refine our understanding of late Cenozoic extension and shortening in the Salinian block of the central California Coast Ranges. Data from the La Panza Range and southern Salinas Basin document early to middle Miocene extension, followed by Pliocene and younger shortening after a period of little deformation in the late Miocene. Extension took place on high-angle normal faults that accommodated ∼2% strain at the scale of the ∼50-km-wide Salinian block (oriented perpendicular to the San Andreas fault). Shortening was accommodated by new reverse faults, reactivation of older normal faults, and strike-slip faulting that resulted in a map-view change in the width of the Salinian block. The overall magnitude of shortening was ∼10% strain, roughly 4–5 times greater than the amount of extension. The timing and magnitude of deformation in our study area are comparable to that documented in other Salinian block basins, and we suggest that the entire block deformed in a similar manner over a similar time span. The timing and relative magnitude of extension and shortening may be understood in the context of central Coast Range tectonic boundary conditions linked to rotation of the western Transverse Ranges at the south end of the Salinian block. Older models for Coast Range shortening based on balanced fault-bend fold-style cross sections are a poor approximation of Salinian block deformation, and may lead to mechanically improbable fault geometries that overestimate the amount of shortening.