The brief but powerful shaking burst water mains, toppled walls and caused other scattered damage around the epicenter.
The quake also tossed items off tables, caused chandeliers to rattle and set off a rockslide in the Orange County city of Brea that flipped a car onto its roof.
It was preceded by two smaller foreshocks and more than 100 aftershocks during the following day.
Seismologists said the quake struck at 2:32 p.m. local time almost directly beneath the cities of La Habra and Brea at a depth of less than 5 miles.
The shaking was felt as far away as Palm Springs to the east, San Diego to the south and Ventura County to the north.