SM PIER — It may not have fresh-cut flowers, fireplaces or a crystal chandelier, but what the restroom facility at the Santa Monica Pier does have is some “whimsical” architecture and environmentally-friendly features, placing it on a list of the top 10 lavatories in the country.

The recently re-built restroom, which features a curved-roof design that mimics waves and the roller coaster at Pacific Park, is in the running to be named America’s best restroom by Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp.

And you can help. Cast a vote for your favorite restroom at through Aug. 31. The site takes visitors on a photographic tour of each facility and then encourages them to choose their favorite. The winner will be announced in September 2010 by Cintas.

Cintas, which produces brand-specific products for businesses, created the Best Restroom award in 2002 to honor those businesses across America that place high value on hygiene and exceptional style in their public restrooms. Over the last eight years, the contest has attracted tens of thousands of voters. The 2010 winner will receive a plaque of recognition and a place in America’s Best Restroom “Hall of Fame” section of the program’s Web site.

“We like to think of this contest as a fun, light-hearted way of drawing the public’s attention to the very important issue of restroom hygiene,” says Cintas Marketing Manager Rich Bing. “People don’t think about such things until they walk into a poorly kept restroom, and then it matters. After that, the odds are they won’t be back.”

Designed to celebrate the pier’s 100th anniversary, the restrooms feature environmental enhancements including applying mesh clerestories to allow for natural light and ventilation, adding low-flow restroom fixtures to reduce water usage, installing durable materials that are corrosion-resistant to the salt air and utilizing recycled materials when possible. The color palette suggests the sky, sea, and sand.

There are 32 toilets, nine urinals, and 18 hand faucets selected for durability and low water usage. Sinks are located outside and can be used by both men and women. There is a 190 square-foot retail space facing the main pedestrian walkway. The 4-foot wide plumbing chase allows for maintenance of plumbing lines without having to close the facility.

Those working to preserve and promote the pier said they waited more than a decade for City Hall to fund and construct new restrooms. As the number of visitors increased over the years, the pier central restroom facility became inadequate in size, deteriorated beyond practical maintenance, and was in need of replacement.

“The restrooms were a top priority of the [Pier Restoration Commission (PRC) board] for over a dozen years,” said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the PRC. “This took a long time and we’ve come a long way from having facilities everyone agreed were really subpar to the stellar public facility we have today.”

Franz-Knight is pleased the restroom is in the running for best in the country, the recognition a sign that the hard work spent coming up with a design is paying off. It is up against some stiff competition. Bryant Park in New York City is in the top 10 along with the China Grill at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

Previous winners include the lavatory at the Shoji Tabachi Theater in Branson, Mo., and the loo at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville.

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