Given the increased frequency of terrorist bombings and mass shootings and an under-lying sense of havoc fed by divisive election politics, it’s no surprise that home security is going over the top and hitting luxurious new heights. Or, rather, new lows, as the average depth of a new breed of safe haven that occupies thousands of square feet is 10 feet under or more. Those who can afford to pull out all the stops for so-called self-preservation are doing so — in a fashion that goes way beyond the submerged corrugated metal units adopted by reality show “preppers” — to prepare for anything from nuclear bombings to drastic climate-change events. Gary Lynch, GM at Rising S Bunkers, a Texas-based company that specializes in underground bunkers and services scores of Los Angeles residences, says that sales at the most upscale end of the market — mainly to actors, pro athletes and politicians (who require signed NDAs) — have increased 700 percent this year compared with 2015, and overall sales have risen 150 percent. “Any time there is a turbulent political landscape, we see a spike in our sales. Given this election is as turbulent as it is, we are gearing up for an even bigger spike,” says marketing director Brad Roberson of sales of bunkers that start at $39,000 and can run $8.35 million or more (FYI, a 12-stall horse shelter is $98,500).
Adds Mike Peters, owner of Utah-based Ultimate Bunker, which builds high-end versions in California, Texas and Minnesota: “People are going for luxury [to] live underground because they see the future is going to be rough. Everyone I’ve talked to thinks we are doomed, no matter who is elected.” Robert Vicino, founder of Del Mar, Calif.-based Vivos, which constructs upscale community bunkers in Indiana (he believes coastal flooding scenarios preclude bunkers being safely built west of the Rockies), says, “Bill Gates has huge shelters under every one of his homes, in Rancho Santa Fe and Washington. His head of security visited with us a couple years ago, and for these multibillionaires, a few million is nothing. It’s really just the newest form of insurance.”
Rising S Bunkers installed a 37-room, 9,000-square-foot complex in Napa Valley for an Academy Award-winning client that rang in at $10.28 million, with a bowling alley, sauna, jacuzzi, shooting range and an ultra-large home theater. Swimming pools, greenhouses, game rooms and gyms are other amenities offered. This year, on another Napa Valley property, the company constructed a $9 million, 7,600-square-foot compound with horse stables and accommodations for 12, along with four escape tunnels leading to outlets on the estate, multiple hidden rooms — in case “you let someone in whom you do not fully trust,” says Lynch — and an aboveground safe house “disguised as a horse barn.” The company also is designing a $3 million bunker for “a major sports figure from Southern California.”