Disaster Proof? Underground Bunker Biz Hits Southwest Riverside County

One local city, Menifee, has a temporary moratorium on the structures that are designed to house people during catastrophic events. Murrieta said it has not received any inquires.

They can be seen on TV.

Now the undergound, survivalist bunkers are emerging in the southwest Riverside County market, but not without questions from local building authorities.

As seen on the Discovery Channel's "Doomsday Bunkers" and National Geographic Channel's "Doomsday Preppers," these structures offer functional living space—sometimes extravagantly.

Hemet-based Down Low Bunkers is at least one local contractor attempting to attract its share of survivalists—or "preppers"—who want to be prepared in the event of a catastrophic disaster.

Down Low Bunkers was started by 26-year-old Nick Boernsen after his father, 56-year-old Donald Boernsen of Boernsen Construction, died in November 2011 following a traffic crash. Partnering with Boernsen is Bob Spurling, 51, a former employee of his father's custom home building company.

Not So Fast

While Down Low Bunkers is completing work on its prototype that would sell for $55,000, one local city has placed a moratorium on permits for the structures.

The city of Menifee in June enacted a temporary 45-day moratorium on bunkers and underground storage facilities after it received at least one permit inquiry.

The city's current land use ordinance does not provide for the location of underground storage facilities or bunkers, wrote city of Menifee Community Development Director Carmen Cave, in a staff report.

"Staff is concerned, due to recent inquires, that there are no planning standards regarding the location or documentation...this lack of documentation may lead to inappropriate location within a property or substandard construction of such facilities, which in turn could be considered a threat to public health, safety and welfare if there are structure failures," Cave wrote.

Cave indicated staff is still working on an ordinance since the June 5 council meeting during which the moratorium was enacted.

"...We will be asking for an extension to the moratorium on July 17 since 45 days is not physically enough time to process an ordinance change," Cave told Patch, in an email.

The city of Murrieta has not received any inquiries about bunkers, according to Building and Safety Director Allen Brock.

If the city was to be approached, Brock said it would likely become more of a zoning issue. Additionally, he said the party would need to provide an independent engineering design, as well as a report that it had been tested and passed.

"They would need to explain (the safety) because there are other concerns beside design, there is fresh air...It is a concern with the seismic safety more than anything," Brock said.

He said Murrieta planners have spoken with Menifee since the matter arose.

"The big question is that maybe it is more of a zoning issue and that is what is happening," Brock said.

Menifee City Councilwoman Darcy Kuenzi said she has familiarized herself with the concept by watching the TV shows and doing online research, and is not entirely opposed to the idea.

"It is fascinating," Kuenzi said, during a recent phone interview with Patch.

"For Menifee, we have a lot of 1-, 2-, 5-acre properties," Kuenzi said. "We want people to enjoy their property rights, we just want to be able to monitor it so that they don't affect their own safety or their neighbors'—it's for public safety."

Safety Foremost

Boernsen said he supports Menifee's efforts.

"Safety is our No. 1 concern so the moratorium is actually a good thing," Boernsen said. "They don’t have any permitting set up for this at all. There are no fundamentals. The moratorium is so they can figure out what codes apply, what standards to use.

"As for permitting, I don’t think it is really right that people are just doing it on their own. There are people who are burying school buses to make bunkers, and storage facilities. Those things are not meant to be underground.

"If it is happening in Menifee, it is soon going to be hitting other cities. We want to involve the cities; we want to be the guys who shake hands and have them know their residents are going to be safe."

Boernsen said he and his team have studied what existing bunker contractors are doing, and believes Down Low Bunkers has designed a quality product. From the get-go, this has involved architects, engineers and good old construction know-how, he said.

"We are taking our knowledge of custom homes and putting that into bunkers," he said.

The structure is 20 feet long and 11 feet, 9 inches wide, and is 100-percent self-sustaining, he said. Sixty percent of the bunker space is for storage—water, food and other necessities—while the remainder is living space and a bathroom. A stationary bicycle powers the bunker and provides exercise for occupants.

Their prototype is protected by 12-gauge galvanized, corrugated steel. It can house up to four people for up to six months underground, Boernsen said.

Their aim is to design it to withstand a 10.0-magnitude earthquake and a nuclear blast closer than 10 miles, he said.

The base unit was designed to be affordable for the general population, while Down Low Bunkers will also offer custom-built ones, Boernsen said.

Survival of the Prepared?

Patch was not able to locate anyone willing to go on record about owning or installing a bunker.

"The No. 1 rule about a bunker is you don’t tell people where it is," Boernsen said.

"People are rushing to buy these things. The whole Mayan calendar ending on Dec. 21, that is kind of putting a rush on this and is probably why the whole craze started," he said.

"But in my mind I think there are other more logical things that could happen, like a big earthquake. Supplies couldn’t get to places, inflation happens, people start rioting and nobody can get supplies because they don't have any money."

borderraven July 10, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Government Socialism will kill survivalism. By the time you get permit approval you will either be dead or be caught half-prepared, as the disaster hits. Privacy rights demand people have protection of rights on their property. tic toc tic toc time is running out to prepare. Not to worry COG - Continuation of Government will take you taxes to build a bunker for the mayor, council, police and their families, while you are left to suffer miserably.
AnnieB July 10, 2012 at 04:20 PM
The reality is that EVERYONE should be prepared with 6 months of food/water storage. These bunkers are great, but expensive. I don't have the $$ for one, BUT everytime I go to Costco I can pick up a case of water and a case of canned goods. Each person in your family should also have a portable 72 hour backpack. Don't count on anyone helping you during an emergency. Being prepared is the ONLY way you will survive!
Duncan Shand July 10, 2012 at 06:35 PM
M. Lee Davis July 10, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Sounds like the city staff wants to control this so they know where these are kept so that they can retreat there in case of an emergency since everyone knows that most forms of government and usually unprepared themselves. I thought the whole idea is to have a private retreat to go to in situations that warrant a retreat to safety. I personally would not want anyone to know where my disaster bunker full of survival supplies and equipment is located. Me and my family should be the only one who knows where it is. Nobody else. Not my neighbor, not my mayor, NOBODY! BTW, isn't it funny that a Cave is against underground survival bunkers?
Zygo July 10, 2012 at 07:11 PM
In Memifee the trick would not to get underground but to get to high ground. Diamond Lake will pretty much scour Menifee if it bursts, Those underground will either drown, or die buried alive.
Paul July 11, 2012 at 09:00 AM
In the early 1960's the USSR was unfriendly and had the capability to blow a lot of us up with nuclear bombs. Around the San Jose Mountain area, and probably lotsw of other places we were all encouraged by the Civil Defense Gov agency to build some means to reduce our exposure to radiation and radioactive fallout. such as have one room in the house that could be shut nearly air tight on the outside wall and lined partway up with concrete blocks or sand bags. Some people had professionally made underground steel tanks that were sometimes lowered into back yards over the housetop with a large crane from the street in front. Other shelters were built with reinforced concrete after earth digging equipment had made a large hole. This was around the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us probably did neither.
Paul July 11, 2012 at 09:18 AM
Correction my last comment about the radiation and radioactive fallout (bomb) shelters should read around the San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto Area that I was familiar with, not San Jose "Mountain area". One large USSR nuclear bomb in that area could have destroyed Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale with 30,000 workers. It was the prime contractor for the program to design and build the ballistic missiles to be fired from under the ocean. and was also beginning of the military satellite program at Lockheed. The adjacent Air Force facility that would control the satellites would also be blown up, and lots more smaller companies. all with just one large nuclear bomb on a large rocket fired from Russia. This was in the 1960's. A bomb a little further north could blow up a large naval facility and San Francisco Airport. etc.
Paul July 11, 2012 at 09:36 AM
Anyhow every household was told they should keep thirty days supply of water and food on hand. I am guessing nowhere near half the public did that. Civil Defense also said to never let the car's gas tank get below half full, and to carry blankets and some food and water supplies and minimal fishing equipment in your car trunk at all times. I think a lot of people did that. I did arrange some boards in the crawl space under the floor and kept a month's supply of water and juice and canned brown bread and some more food down there. Occasionally rotating it up to use and replacing it with fresher supplies. The children did not know about this and we did not want the neighbors to know either. It was believed that in a real prolonged emergency with many persons running out of food some would take guns and kill to get food where ever they could. Any way after about a year my explorative 10 year old son found the place to access the crawl space in the master bedroom closet AND TOLD EVERY KID IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD ABOUT ALLTHE FOOD UNDER OUR HOUSE. SO WE USED IT UP AND DID NOT BUY ANYMORE,
Jordan Dixon July 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM
I just want a safe place to store my food/water/supplies safely. And in the event that people do come out with their guns and try to harm me or my family when they themselves cant buy or trade for their own supplies I can hide. A house isnt safe enough!
MILLA December 14, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I cant see how anyone could say they wouldn't the peace of mind in this day and age! If you cant afford a Bomb Shelter then check out these guys. They are local and will help you finance one! http://www.bombsheltersforsale.net our government has already dug in and made a place for them to be protected...why would we not do the same?


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