Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tensions Rise in Masa 14 Negotiations at ANC Meeting

Is it a conflict of interest for an ANC commissioner tasked with negotiating a voluntary agreement with an establishment to also be serving as a witness for a group of residents protesting the establishment?

That was one of several issues to arise during a tense ANC1B meeting on Thursday evening at the Reeves Center. The commissioner in question is ANC1B commissioner and Liquor Licenses Committee Chairman Peter Raia, who has been leading negotiations on behalf of the ANC for an expansion of popular 14th Street restaurant Masa 14. Masa is seeking to open a rooftop deck, which has created a not insubstantial amount of concern amongst neighbors concerning the potential for noise emanating from the establishment at late hours.

In his position as Liquor License Committee Chairman, Raia has been tasked with negotiating the revised voluntary agreement with Masa. At Thursday's meeting, fellow ANC1B commission Brianne Nadeau raised the point that Raia, in addition to his ANC position, has also agreed to serve as a witness for a group of residents protesting the expansion. Masa 14 exists within Raia's single member district. 1B Chairperson Anderson Holness pointed out that nothing precludes Raia from serving in both roles, provided it is clear that he is acting only as a resident--and not as an ANC commissioner--when serving as a witness for the group of resident protestants.

Things became increasingly testy when Andrew Kline, the attorney representing Masa in the negotiations, came before the ANC to discuss the status of the negotiations. Kline claimed that he was assured by Raia that Raia would support operating hours of Masa's rooftop deck of 1 AM on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends. Raia claimed no such promise was ever made, to which Kline responded "Are you calling me a liar, Mr. Raia?"

At this point, Chairperson Holness intervened and warned both Kline and Raia against bringing personal disagreements before the ANC. After additional discussions, Raia put forth a motion for the ANC to accept Masa's outdoor operating hours of 11 PM on weekdays and 12 AM on weekends, hours which Kline indicated Masa would find unacceptable. That motion failed.

Commissioner Nadeau followed with a motion of her own, recommending that the ANC accept operating hours of 1 AM on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends; that was later amended to midnight on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends. That motion passed 6-1, with Raia being the only "nay" vote. Kline indicated that this compromise would likely be acceptable, which brings that matter nearer to a close.

The tense discussions highlighted the constant struggle within ANC1B to successfully handle the volume of liquor licenses within the commission's boundaries. Raia has been chairing meetings of the ANC's liquor license committee, which have met with some controversy in the past regarding who can attend, and what kind of business gets conducted there.

In October, Mid-City Business Association Vice President Jean Homza wrote a letter to all ANC1B commissioners regarding the meetings, claiming that she was essentially kicked out of the Committee's October meeting, with Commissioner Raia telling her that "that only residents could participate in the committee." This was in apparent contradiction to the statement on the ANC's website, which stated "members of the community are encouraged to join and participate in the work of this committee."

Homza raised concerns regarding the type of business conducted at the meetings, which included discussions about the "thoughts of the community on our current [liquor] licenses," particularly in light of the fact that the meeting was apparently not open to all members of the community.

Since then, the Committee's meeting times have been posted to the ANC's website, and have been open to all members of the community. The next meeting will take place on Thursday, May 19.

As to the ongoing saga of Masa 14's license, the ANC's vote on Thursday helps bring the matter closer to completion. Still outstanding, however, is the resident protest, of which--as noted above--Raia will be serving as a witness. A hearing on the license is scheduled for June, which will take place should the parties be unable to reach agreement.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joel Lawson said...

I am one of appx. 85 residents who signed the protest, just with the goal of seeking a good voluntary agreement (VA) with Masa 14 re: hours and other basic aspects of their proposed rooftop deck and bar.

I've participated in a number of discussions regarding Masa 14, mostly with the leaders of the resident process (who are independent of any ANC, mind you), as well as with Commissioner Raia and Commissioner Estrada (adjoining ANCs).

I didn't attend this ANC1B meeting, but I will say this: from the discussions I've had, it is impossible for me to imagine that Andrew Kline's assertions/assumptions/understandings re: Commissioner Raia's position on hours are correct. I have not seen nor heard anything to support what Mr. Kline's assertion.

I have absolutely no dog in any fights within ANC1B, and quite honestly believe Masa 14 is a gorgeous restaurant and gorgeous redevelopment of space on 14th. I'm just one of 85 residents seeking a good VA--and we all hope that's achievable before everyone has to spend unnecessary amounts of precious time and money on a protest hearing this week.

In achieving that goal, Mr. Kline's reported actions here are simply regrettable and not helpful.

Anonymous said...

Stopping Black Cat's roof top deck should have settled the issue. Why is this coming up again? helping businesses thrive and be successful is everyone's goal to keep this Captial City flourishing - but not at the expense of the RESIDENTS. 85 residents are on the petition because there should be one city wide ordinance that limits hours of any outside spaces (restaurants/roof decks/sidewalk cafe's) where noise can impact neighrboing residents, but since the city hasn't done this, it's up to the neighbors to protect their homesteads while trying to support growth. It's the tax paying RESDIENTS of this city that have made all this new growth and opportunity possible! Support the residents of neighborhoods first, then support businesses - as we all do!

p.s. is it true Masa is looking to open another restaurant/taco /bar on that same block and also wants a rooftop deck there also? This means even more noise, people. traffic, parking, trash issues till early morning hours? The other businesses ont hat block like St Ex, Policy and others all live with the 11pm/12am limits, so why can't Masa play by the same rules? Why is Masa special? They already have a sidewalk cafe outside too!

Anonymous said...

I think voluntary agreements are the way to come to a reasonable agreement between residents and businesses. Halo on P Street (now called Mova) was denied their rooftop expansion and they were willing to enter into a VA and were going to install glass wall barriers to block noise. They paid quite a bit for engineering studies on this but were still shot down because a very vocal neighbor blew up every residents email and building bulletin boards with a lot of lies and inaccurate stories. She told residents that they should expect to be awakened at all hours of the night by screaming, music, drunkeness, public sex and even having bottles and glasses thrown at their windows from Halo's proposed rooftop. We all want to see our neighborhoods flourish and we all need to accept that with the popularity of our neighborhhood that there might be some parking or noise issues. We need to be careful and not lose businesses because of the ignorance that kept Halo from expanding it's rooftop. There are some residents that should have re-considered moving into the city and possibly would be better off in Reston and beyond. We are a metropolitan city and deserve a balanced lifestyle that we moved here for.

Alex said...

Are you really against more people comment 3?

"This means even more noise, people..."

You chose to live in a city. No one is forcing you to stay here, I'm sure a 'people free homestead' in Price Williams county can be found for you.

Anonymous said...

that's such a petty response to response #3 - and we certainly don't need you to tell us what to think or where to live! This is about resident and business living in close quarters and in good harmony - obviously the more places that open, the more the noise and issues intensify, which is why neighbors are trying to get a handle on a VA and hours - so the businesses can continue to grow, but in perspective that residents live on the same blocks.
THat is not unreasonable. Grow up.

T Street said...

I live in the neighborhood.

It sounds to me like the hours that the ANC voted on (midnight weekdays and 2am weekends) are a pretty reasonable compromise.

I totally understand and support the rights of residents to enjoy peace and quiet.

However, we all have to be realistic about our expectations for things being quiet when we buy homes or move into apartments that are within or abut a commercially zoned area.

Alex said...

Well, as a "tax paying RESDIENT" I support roof decks and sidewalk cafes.

I don't have the time to protest your stance in person, but for the record I am in favor of Masa's proposed hours. I would also be in favor of them opening another restaurant or bar or taco on that same block. Idiot.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon #1: I deleted your comment because of the profanity you decided to include. Let's have a conversation, but please keep it clean. Thanks.

mark said...

Weird.Last weekend at my laptop at Cafe Collage, I heard a group talking about this stuff.A guy named Joel was coaching the group about what to say, to appear business friendly and he'd handle the press.

DB said...

I understand everyone's concern regarding loud noises and late nights but I have to say that you knew what you were getting into when you chose to live in this area. This is a primarily commercial, not residential area. You are between DuPont Circle, Logan Circle, U St Corridor and the burgeoning 14th street corridor. As someone who has lived in this neighborhood for a long time, I am very pleased and excited about all the new developments, particularly the restaurants. They have given this neighborhood more life and energy than ever before, besides providing new delicious dining options. Instead of trying to stifle the neighborhood you should be encouraging the growth and vibrant culture. If you want to live in a very quiet, residential area, DC has many many options that would suit you.

Anonymous said...

Is Atty Kline suspended?

Joel said...

@mark: I absolutely did meet, and have met, repeatedly, with fellow protestants, in order to try and guide our messages in a way that is professional, non-hyperbolic, and aimed at winning the very reasonable goal. This group is not, not, against a new rooftop. It's about hours and other elements. Several reasonable attempts were made, rejected, and that is what's landed all this (unfortunately) in a full protest hearing. Nonetheless, we're still taking into that protest our reasonable requests, not going for full opposition (as more often happens). Do you suggest there is something sinister in participating in the democratic process here? Should residents not meet before they go into a full protest hearing, coordinate who will say what, when the agency itself suggest you do that? LOL. If residents don't get their act and messages together beforehand, everyone's time is completely wasted in those agency hearing rooms. As for "handling" the "press" LOL what I did say is that I would remain in contact with the blogs, as I have, and as probably this blogger can confirm. No Opus Dei operating here, sorry to disappoint.

@DB: It is flatly inaccurate to suggest "This is a primarily commercial, not residential area." It's both, and zoning confirms as much. We all knew 14th would get much noisier, and in my opinion, that's a sign of renovation, rehab, and success. It means jobs and vibrancy and a good night out. But if you don't strike a balance, if you refuse to put the slightest urban planning lens on, you can get a royal mess that goes downscale real fast. Both exist, and it's not as hard to find balance as some suggest, especially if you're not dismissive of one side or the other.

T Street said...

Hi Joel,

You said: "This group is not, not, against a new rooftop. It's about hours and other elements. Several reasonable attempts were made, rejected, and that is what's landed all this (unfortunately) in a full protest hearing."

The question I have, as a fellow neighborhood resident, is will your group support the hours that ANC1B voted to support: 12am weekdays and 2am weekends?

This sounds like a reasonable compromise to me, since legal hours are 2am weekdays and 3am weekends.

I would be more willing to believe that your group is genuinely seeking a compromise if you all went on the record with what it is, exactly, that you want from Masa 14.

Joel said...

T: I am not the lead or even co-lead of this protest, so I don't want to speak for them. As a signatory, though, I do know a final compromise was offered, and hours always end up dependent upon design and materials. What this means: if an establishment is willing to make a few design alterations, then residents inevitably feel more comfortable in offering later hours. I did just that with Local 14 slated for next to Room & Board. It was a good process, everyone walked away happy. I can put you in touch with both the owner and their attorney, and they would say likewise. I'm just one signatory, a radical centrist resident if you will, but my personal view is: redesign might make those hours fine, but I have no idea how the entire group would vote. We had votes, we had mediations, they didn't reach a reasonable conclusion on all the facets, and it's sad, because now here we go again. If you want, email me directly and I'll put you in touch with the co-leads. lawson.joel [at]

For now, I've had enough of trying to aim things to the middle, only to get hit by traffic in both directions.

Mark said...

Gee, all I said was that I overheard a meeting where a guy named Joel was directing the group. Interesting response, though. Kinda defensive. Leaves me wonderin: If you're not against the new roof top, why are you signed on? And, if you're guiding the message, what is it? What is a radical centrist?

Joel said...

Mark: Check out the ABRA website to get a sense of the process. Residents have to "protest" in order to have standing in seeking a Voluntary Agreement. If you end up in a protest hearing, it's a very formal setting, you have to list your folks and what they'll cover, you're not allowed to repeat items, and so yes you have to dry run. If you want to discuss further shoot me an email at Lawson.Joel [at]

Mark said...

Ok, I get the process, but I'm askin about Masa in particular: why are you signed on? what's the message from the group for us blog readers?

Joel said...

Mark: Sorry, but limited time this morning. I do feel I've explained my own views above. And again, I'm not speaking for the group. Happy to put you in touch with leads. Email me. Or attend the hearing, they're open to the public. Loc/time on ABRA agency cal (I wish they'd webcast them).

Mark said...

Thought you were in charge of delivering the group message. Is there a message? Just wonderin what's motivating you to protest this.

Andy said...

Mark, Joel stopped a huge deck at Black Cat, so it makes sense that the group would get his help with Masa 14.

Andy said...

PS - The protest hearing for Masa 14 is today at 3PM.
1250 U Street, NW, Third Floor
(202) 442-4423

Cheryl said...

Peter Raia is my ANC rep and I know him to be very responsible, balanced, fair and thoughtful in his approach to solving neighborhood issues. It's obvious that there are people who are trying to undermine his reputation, best intentions and effective leadership through blogs and local rags. Hang in there Peter. Your constituents know that you're doing the right things.

Joel said...

(quick clarification on Andy's pt: I and other residents agreed w/Black Cat having a deck, exactly as he'd originally requested, and ABC ruling in the end gave him that permission. questions were over latter changes, bar addition, total capacity changes, etc. etc. but Black Cat can build the deck they originally requested at any time).

Joel said...

(@Mark: Told you my personal views, and offered twice to put you in touch w/leads. This makes three times. Email me if you want. Otherwise we're on a loop here).

Mark said...

Ok, Joel. Guess you're holdin back from putting out the Masa group message. No problem. My questions were for the edification of us blog readers.

Joel said...

Would love to be your personal Wiki for another umpteen rounds here, but told you my views, got work, errands, and of course more secret society mtgs in public coffee shops.

Attend the hearing. Or read the transcript for every lovin' word. Ofcs right there at 12th & U. Or "Mark" just approach and chat next time (seen ya 'round the blocks, Miss).

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Cheryl, please feel free to elaborate on these sinister attempts to "undermine (Peter's) reputation, best intentions and effective leadership through blogs and local rags". I--and I'm sure others--are curious as to what these efforts might entail.

Anonymous said...

This thread is hilarious. Can we rework the old faculty politics quote to say: local politics is vicious precisely because there's so little at stake.

The saddest part of all these things is that the ANC process simply doesn't work because so few people who live in this neighborhood care to engage in a process that at it's best seems like painful condo board meeting. People who do serve are kind altruists or those with an ax to grind. It takes a certain type of person to do this stuff. I mean, ANC commissioners win with 200 votes right?

Kudos to those who try, but even under the best circumstances, these decisions are not about what creates the most net-benefit for the community. They devolve into petty bickering about who is the community (owners v. renters)and which factions of that community matter more (I've been here longer than you, etc). Decisions are made based on how many upset people show up at a meeting, which inevitably favors those who intensely oppose living next to a new bar rather than those larger numbers in the aggregate who would be mildly more happy to have another dining option.

Sorry to lay it out like that for those who really try and care. You're doing good work. Just let me know when we have a system that doesn't require the silent majority to attend six-hour Tuesday night meetings about zoning regulations.

Nina said...


Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon 1:27, if you get a chance, would you mind shooting me an email at 14thandyou (at) gmail (dot) com? I'd like to get in touch with you.


Wallach Place Resident said...

I'm a very big fan of Masa 14, but I agree with Cheryl 100%.

Peter Raia is my ANC commissioner, and has been my neighbor since I moved to the neighborhood 2 years ago. He's is conscientious and is always willing to help out when he runs into a resident with a problem. As a licensed realtor he understands the value/importance of creating a positive environment for continued business development in the area, but at the same time he understands that in order to ensure that the area continues to be a place where people can actually sleep at night and raise their families, businesses and residents must compromise on certain issues.

Representing the community in its negotiations with a restaurant is perfectly consistent with representing that same community in voicing concerns about the position the restaurant has taken in those negotiations. The suggestion that such activities create a conflict (ethical or other) is a red herring, and is a distraction from the central issue which is: what are reasonable closing hours for bar/restaurant/club outdoor spaces when those establishments are situated in a mixed residential/commercial area of the city?

Like most of the area residents, I am not anti-business and the variety of bars, restaurants and other businesses near 14th and U was just one of the MANY reasons why my wife and I were drawn to purchase a home in this area (others include its proximity to downtown & other neighborhoods, grocery stores, and great public transportation). Having said that, it's completely reasonable for a resident to want to go to bed (or put their children to bed) at 11 pm on weekdays and not have to worry about being kept awake for a few more hours by the sound system on a bar's roof deck or the bar's patrons.

Peter is trying to make sure that these interests are balanced for the good of EVERYONE who has an stake in the future of the neighborhood, and his efforts should be applauded.

Nina said...


Joel said...

AMEN ANON 1:27. Lower the stakes, meaner the game, that still sums up DC local and neighborhood politics. And the centrists burn out the quickest.

Also agree re: making the processes more accessible. Let's have ALL agency hearings webcast. Hold wknd mtgs. ANCs too. Let's have the city help everyone from ANCs up to agencies communicate better with residents, esp. via email. A few are doing much better at this recently, but too many are lagging severely. Let's have residents "vote" (or voice, at the least) more often on various issues with 'Net tools.

A communications overhaul is needed, to allow people with too little time to have a voice, so we gain a chorus beyond the existing sets of voices.

Anonymous said...


Peter Raia is my commissioner and I am very displeased with his representation of this area, and I will give specific reasons, not general feel good statements, as his record contradicts your assertions

Peter Raia in the short time he has been in office has personally negotiated voluntary agreements for three other rooftop venues, 2005 14th, 901 U Street, and 1905 9th that have full rooftop hours and “background music.” What is different at Masa 14.

Commissioner Raia has demanded that Saint-Ex’s and other sidewalk cafes conform to the same closing hours as a matter of fair practice, however now he contradicts himself here on rooftop decks, and these others are just as close or closer to residences.

The details of these voluntary agreements for these venues were never put on an agenda for the ANC ABC committee to discuss. Why, because he has only held one officially announced and publicized meeting in the 16 months he has chaired that committee and that was two months ago.

Even though it was in the middle of discussions, Masa 14 was not asked to appear before the committee at that time by him. Why were they not on his agenda? What was more important?

The issue of “what capacity” he testifies is an important one given his track record of contradicting the position of his ANC and particularly given his stated position on this license. The ANC 1B commission did not agree with Commissioner Raia’s motion, they supported a 12 and 2 closing hours for the VA and if he is representing the commission than he is required to represent their position not his own.

Haven’t heard back yet as to what capacity he testified yesterday, however the concerns about his lack of consistency and inability to hold the meetings where these issues would be discussed in depth are a matter of public record.

The next ANC ABC meeting is in a week and he has not sent out an agenda to tell us who will be there and what issues like the ones that you are legitimately concerned about will be discussed.

When he becomes a bit more transparent and consistent, then I'll join the fan club.

Van said...

Anonymous with complaints: If you're so displeased with your
representative, why don't you contact him directly? If an ANC doesn't support the single member, who is representing his constituents and the problems they face, then the ANC has failed, not Commissioner Raia.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have a lot of time to chime in, even as a burnt out centrist.

Anonymous said...

< wow thx sounds like more bitterness is exactly what dc needs

Anonymous said...

Commissioner Raia has been contacted by many people that are displeased with him, including myself. The fallacy or your argument is in your statement “If an ANC doesn't support the single member, who is representing his constituents and the problems they face, then the ANC has failed, not Commissioner Raia.”

What makes you think he is representing his constituents. As I commented, he has been ABC chair for the ANC for 16 months and has only held one meeting that was announced at the ANC, where the location was also announced and posted.

In those 16 months Commissioner Raia has not publically poled his constituency of 2000+, instead he negotiates in small groups and shares no information on public lists about what is going on in the community. Sorry, but I don’t trust someone who negotiates on my behalf but doesn’t share info about the negotiations, until they are done.

anon too said...

Peter Raia is readily accessible. He's at the monthly ANC meetings, he's reachable by email and telephone. All ABC matters before the commission are listed on the meeting agendas. Raia is very straight forward. I've never heard of anyone being excluded from meetings. Perhaps being proactive, rather than sitting on the sidelines and complaining after the fact might help you. Or, perhaps you just plain disagree with Raia and his other constituents.

Unknown said...

I happen to know Comm Raia has had more than one official meeting. I also know he takes comments all the time, as I have seen him many times walking his SMD a night talking with the businesses and residents. One time he even brought people to my business that were from out of town that he met on the metro. When they ate at my place they said "wow that guy (ANC Peter Raia) really cares about the local businesses and talked so proudly about U street and its culture. He did'nt have to walk us to the place he just seemed so willing to go the extra mile." I know from talking with the other business owners he recently worked with Mid Cities and other business owners and operators to come up with a good Va plan for the two new basement venues on U St. For the process of Va's, if you attend the ANC1b meetings
on Thursday at the Reeves you would hear that he sends all Va's to be reviewed and or modified
by the rest of the commision. So as far as I can tell it's not only his decision. I dont get the finger pointing to just one ANC. As for the hours of Masa 14 if I heard correctly the full commision wanted them to have less hours when they voted. Again why the finger pointing.

Wallach Place Resident said...

I agree with Joel. Commissioner Raia is very responsive to e-mail and he is also pretty easy to find if you spend any time walking around the neighborhood. He's not a "smoke filled room" "cutting deals on the side" kind of guy, and if you're having trouble getting information about negotiations in which you have an interest, you are clearly not making a minimal effort to seek out that information.

Perhaps this is my misunderstanding of the system, but I don't believe individual ANC commissioners are required to march in lock-step with the rest of the ANC. And from what I've seen, it is not unusual for a commissioner who represents residents of a part of the neighborhood that isn't as impacted by a given issue rubber stamp a request that residents of a more directly effected area would fight tooth and nail against. In such situations, if Commissioner Raia knows that the others are willing to pass something (without debate) that would be harmful to his constituents, he SHOULD be contradicting the other Commissioners by making statements that support his constituents needs (even if those needs include wacky things - like the ability to sleep at night).

Again, the bottom line here is that Comm. Raia is trying to make sure that a reasonable balance between residential and commercial interests is reached, and since each VA is negotiated individually, it should not be a shock that their terms aren't consistent. If Comm. Raia doesn't have the support of the rest of the Commissioners, he still has a duty to stand up for his constituents if he thinks the business owners are unfairly attempting to infringe on the residential neighbors' right to enjoy their properties.

If you don't like his point of view/the concerns voiced by the residents of our part of the neighborhood re: the operating hours of outdoor bar/restaurant spaces, you have every right to voice your own opinion on that issue. But it undermines your credibility and sullies an otherwise legitimate debate when you suggest that Peter Raia is doing something unethical by representing his constituents on the record at a public hearing.

Anonymous said...

Joe: 2:14

If you definitely know of more than one ANC 1B ABC one meeting that was announced at the ANC meeting, posted on the website, with a location announced that was open to the public as required by the ANC, then please provide the agendas and minutes as this is official ANC business. Let's see how many of the details of these VA's were ever discussed with the public.

Read the ANC minutes for the past year about VA's and you will see that there has been a long history around the questions of appropriateness of process and need to return them to the commission. What it means for the public is because they are not brought before the ABC committee we don't know the details until after they are signed by the commission, unless we become part of an official protest. There is no transparency in his process?

Raia motioned for 10 on Weekdays and 12 on Weekends, that motion was not supported, the subsequent motion was 1 and 2, which was amended to 12 and 2. That was the position of the ANC. Commissioner Raia has the right to state his position, however not to represent that as the position of the commission.

I don't see finger pointing occurring. I am just asking for Commissioner Raia to be consistent and transparent, something he has failed to be so far.

PS: What is Mid Cities?

Anonymous said...


If Raia would hold public meetings with the applicants, we wouldn't have to "seek out information", it would occur at the committee meeting level, monthly. It would be transparent.

The other rooftop decks where he negotiated VA's for full hours and "background music" are either in his commission (2) or directly adjacent (1). Again I ask him, what is specifically different in the situation of MASA 14, that he would consider 10 and 12 as appropriate and yet he would grant full hours in other parts of his commission?

Joel said...

lol some confusion between Joe and Joel. For the record, I have not opened a restaurant. Don't protest me. ;()

confused said...

Joel, what exactly is your role?

Anonymous said...

Pomp n Pomeroy.

Joel said...

scullery maid

Anonymous said...

am i missing something?
Raia supported at least 5 roof top application with full hours and 2 in last 4 months

2001 14th street
2005 14th street

get a life!!!

Anonymous said...

scullery maid? ooh, down & dirty. hope you're getting paid.