Hi, I am Monica LaFonte

I am a resident of Arlington, VA.

I live right in the middle of this construction frenzy, and let me tell you, it’s dusty and noisy. And this isn’t just a mild inconvenience.

The motive for initiating this campaign started when a quest for simple answers about air quality in my apartment from building managers was met with evasive responses and inaction. If I couldn’t get clear answers, perhaps others had similar questions on air quality due to the construction?


We need transparency now. We need immediate action. Your health, my health—our well-being—isn’t a game. Time to flip the script. Let’s force these big names to come clean. Literally.

The impact of urban development on individual lives.

Dirty air filters, only 30 days old instead of the advertised 90, …raised questions about the air quality.

In the winter of 2022/23, I began to struggle with severe difficulty breathing, surpassing the discomfort typically associated with a “bad air day” or allergies and eventually, a few months later, I ended up in the emergency room. After the discovery of my HVAC and vents filters looking like a chimney sweep’s nightmare, I started getting a suspicion that construction dust was finding its way into my apartment despite my efforts to keep my window shut.

I live in a building managed by JBG Smith, —these folks are major league. They are mega investors for ‘National Landing’ neighborhood that made headlines in late 2018. Not only are they behind the building of Amazon HQ and most of the developments in Arlington, but they also swallowed Clark Construction. Concerned about my health, I requested a comprehensive air quality test in early February. But as the months rolled by – May, June, July – I was met with vague responses and a frustrating lack of action.

Their responses were vague, 9 months of emails, a merry-go-round of lies in which they even tried to deflect their responsibility and pointed fingers at Arlington County, and never really addressed the heart of my concerns. (the underlying cause of the air filters condition) By mid-July, my patience had worn thin. I demanded immediate plan of action, these communications were not only disappointing but also worrying. “Could this delay be a coincidence, perhaps waiting for the completion of the RCA building demolition that was happening at the time?

Their only solution? Offer to break my contract without penalty. It was a clear attempt at sweet-talking me into walking away. Nice try, but that move just blew the lid off your cover-up! I never once requested to leave. Why should I be the one forced out? This wasn’t a genuine solution, it was nothing more than a diversion, a slick attempt to sweep the real issue under the rug… as if avoiding the problem would somehow make it disappear. Their handling of the air filter issue was more than just a minor concern. It wasn’t just about air quality anymore and it raised deep suspicions of a cover-up and cast a shadow of doubt over JBG Smith’s commitment to the health and well-being of its tenants.What are you so afraid of, JBG Smith? …Why are you trying to chloroformed me? What are they hiding and why?

I took matters into my own hands and reached out to Arlington County, only to learn that the current system lacks regulations to protect residents from the effects of construction pollution and ultimately the responsibility falls on us.

This redevelopment isn’t just a few buildings going up. It’s an urban upheaval spanning decades, with risks that are still largely unquantified. Our homes have become test sites for potential long-term exposure to hazardous materials.

#JBG Smith and the City of Arlington know the risks,…the dust, the noise, the potential health hazards of demolition and construction. Yet, there’s a deafening silence on their part. No disclosures, no warnings, nothing. They conveniently choose not to disclose anything. 


Monica

While corporations look at numbers, the county has the responsibility of looking at faces, names, and stories. With Arlington County not addressing the issue directly, and instead steering towards external resources, feels like a sidestepping of this core responsibility. One can’t help but wonder: Is this a tacit acknowledgment of the underlying concerns, yet a hesitation to confront them?

I genuinely empathize with the burden the county carries, and it’s not lost on me that these are complex challenges. However time is indeed of the essence. Each day that passes without definitive action is another day residents grapple with the consequences. As the county navigates this intricate landscape, remember that what’s at stake isn’t just the future of buildings and infrastructures, but the well-being and quality of life of every individual living in their shadow. While corporations might shirk from facing the human side of these decisions, I earnestly hope the county won’t.

This is not a trivial campaign, it’s a necessity, given the scale and duration of the construction projects and their potential impact on everyone in Arlington.

It’s time to step forward. This is about more than just one person’s struggle. It’s about our community. It’s about holding those responsible accountable and ensuring that our homes are safe, healthy places to live. The truth needs to come out, and it starts with us.
Monica