Man jailed for alleged arson of fire chief’s home
asks bail be lowered

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Published on February 29, 2008 with No Comments

By Ari Burack

February 29, 2008

A man jailed on $1 million bail for allegedly setting fire to and vandalizing the historic residence of the San Francisco fire chief will argue his case to reduce bail next week.

Lance Farber, 47, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony counts of arson of an inhabited dwelling, arson of property, and vandalism exceeding $400 in damages.

He also denied a misdemeanor charge that he violated a restraining order against his boyfriend, newly appointed Planning Department Director John Rahaim, with whom he was living temporarily at the residence.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Farber violated the existing restraining order by phoning Rahaim from jail. A judge signed a second restraining order against Farber on Wednesday, prohibiting him from having contact with Rahaim or 870 Bush St., the location of the Dennis T. Sullivan Memorial Fire Chief’s Home.

Farber’s attorney Randall Knox told San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi this morning that Farber asked his bail be lowered today, a request Assistant District Attorney Sharon Reardon objected to, citing a “public safety risk.”

Giorgi refused to lower bail, as the request requires the district attorney’s office be notified two days in advance, in addition noting “some complications with regards to the facts of this case.”

Farber will return to court Monday morning to set a date for his preliminary hearing. Knox is expected to file a bail motion as well that day, which could be heard by a judge Wednesday.

Knox, who says Farber works as a chiropractor and has no prior criminal record, contends the charges are excessive.

“This is not your typical arson case,” Knox said today outside the courtroom. “This is not somebody trying to harm someone.”

“The bail is just way too high for this kind of case,” he added. Farber is suspected of lighting fire to a mattress he and Rahaim shared at the home, an official city landmark built in 1922, on the night of Feb. 22. He is also suspected of vandalizing an area of the home.

“He’s not a flight risk, he’s not a public safety risk,” Knox said. “It he were a threat to public safety it would have manifested itself in some other way besides this case.”

Farber was arrested in San Mateo County, about an hour after the fire, on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Fire officials estimated the cost of recarpeting and repainting the home at about $30,000.

Though none of the three-story landmark’s historical items were damaged, the informal arrangement between Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office and the fire department to allow new department heads to stay at the residence while they resettled from other cities has been discontinued at the request of Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

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asks bail be lowered
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