More than 200 residents and community leaders crammed the cafeteria of Green Acres Elementary School Thursday night to hail the release of a report touted as a "historic event" by organizers.
Called "Live Oak: A Community Snapshot," the report paints a detailed portrait of the unincorporated portion of Santa Cruz County that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Highway 1 and 38th Avenue to Seventh Avenue.
"I say 'historic,' because never in the history of Live Oak has this ever been done," said Jorge Zavala, a Live Oak resident and volunteer at the Live Oak Family Resource Center, the agency involved in drafting the report.
The idea behind the report is to get the roughly 25,000 residents who live in neighborhood talking about how to improve their community and quality of life.
"It's time to create an agenda and act. Let's have 1,000 conversations," said Erika Hearon, co-director of the family resource center.
Some of the facts in the report include:
• Live Oak has the third largest population of any area in Santa Cruz County and is bigger than Capitola and Scotts Valley combined.
• The 25,000 people who live in Live Oak are roughly 10 percent of the county population, yet there are no banks, no post offices, major supermarkets or pharmacies. And there's only one health clinic, which operates for two hours a week.
In short, the community needs services and it's time for a change for the better, leaders said.
In the next six weeks, there were will be 20 different public presentations of the information to different county nonprofit groups. The hope is that many of the groups end up lending a hand to bring new services to Live Oak, said Elizabeth Schilling, director of the family resource center.
"We need to thrust Live Oak into the political landscape and change things," she said before the meeting. "This is a very working class community that needs attention. There are a lot of pressures on families here who work low wages, pay high rent and lack health care."
The report is the end result of a $25,000 grant to the family resource center from the S.H. Cowell Foundation. The UC Santa Cruz Center for Justice, Tolerance and Community also was instrumental in helping put the report together.
"We aim to make a difference in people's lives," said Heather Bullock, director of the UC Santa Cruz center, which helped with the technical aspects of the report including gathering 2000 Census data.
A big issue facing Live Oak is the lack of government representation, according to the report. Because it's an unincorporated area, there is no city council. The only political representatives to be found are the Live Oak School District board and county Supervisor Jan Beautz.
The community has also undergone dramatic demographic changes, including a rise in immigrants. According to the 2000 Census, 14.2 percent of Live Oak residents were born outside of the United States, a 4.3 increase since 1990.
Between 1990 and 2000, according to the report, the white population decreased by 11 percent and the Latino population increased by 7 percent, the report said.
The Live Oak School District's makeup is 44 percent white, or non-Hispanic, and 44 percent Latino, with the rest of the student body Asian, Pacific Islander, black or American Indian.
The area was largely a collection of chicken farms from the beginning of the 20th century into the 1950s, according to the report.
"Live Oak's proximity to the railroad and granaries, as well as the opportunity to purchase relatively low-priced poultry farms, drew families from around the United States," the report said.
Contact Tom Ragan at 706-3254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.